The city’s police officers want their home addresses removed from public websites, such as those maintained by local tax offices.
“Our families should not live in fear of being targeted,” Christina Fountain told elected leaders last week during a city and county meeting with Durham’s delegates in the N.C. General Assembly.
“You are dead on,” said state Rep. H.M. “Mickey” Michaux.
Fountain, the wife of a Durham policeman, had asked to speak at the meeting, which dealt with legislation the city wants passed during the 2015 legislative session. Home addresses of property owners and voters are matters of public record and show up on various public websites, such as those for local tax and voter registration records.
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“Police officers have been violently and aggressively targeted,” she said, and, “All it takes is 30 seconds and a smartphone to find out where (an officer) lives.”
On Dec. 29, a shooting damaged a sliding glass door in an off-duty Durham officer’s apartment. No one was injured but, Fountain said, “Fear has reached our homes.”
In 2014, the state House unanimously passed a bill directing the state courts commission to study requiring local governments to allow law-enforcement and court personnel to have personal information removed from city and county websites ( nando.com/sb78).
The bill, though, died in a state Senate committee.
“We need to get back on it,” Michaux said. He asked Durham state Sens. Floyd McKissick and Mike Woodard to “revive that and send it back over to us.
“I think we can get it out of the House again,” Michaux said.
“It’s certainly a reasonable request for us to bring,” said Woodard.
“We all support it,” Mayor Bill Bell told the legislators. “You all figure it out.”
Former Durham Police Chief Teresa Chambers vehemently opposed including police officers’ addresses when Durham County put tax records online in 1999.
Two years later, she had her name taken off the voter registration list when the county Board of Elections put those records online – in the process, giving up her own right to vote.
North Carolina has an Address Confidentiality Program for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking ( nando.com/acp).
Under that program, the state Attorney General’s office provides the victim with a substitute address. Victims’ mail is received there and forwarded to their real addresses, which the AG keeps secret.
People in the program can use the substitute address for other purposes, such as applying for a driver’s license or electrical service. However, the program cannot keep a victim’s real address off public records if the victim owns real property.
In another matter, state Rep. Paul Leubke said he is working on a bill to restore the revenue that cities stand to lose from the legislature’s elimination of the privilege tax on businesses.
Authority to impose the tax currently is set to expire June 30, 2015. Durham stands to lose $2.9 million in annual income, said Karmisha Wallace, senior assistant to City Manager Tom Bonfield.
Durham leaders and their counterparts across the state are hoping their legislators can push a reinstated business tax through. Luebke said the bill he has in mind would provide the same amount of revenue, but adjust the privilege-tax rates so they are comparable from one place to another.
“So we don’t have discrepancy btween what Charlotte charges for a Target and what Durham charges for a Target,” he said.
With prospects for recovering the privilege tax uncertain, though, Bonfield said Durham is working on its 2015-16 budget assuming a loss of $2.9 million that was factored into previous budget projections.
“Durham used the $2.9 million to fund our basic governmental operations, public-safety operations, et cetera,” Bonfield said. Its loss “really kind of squeezes us, to the point that raising property taxes is one of the few local options we would have.”