Redeploying resources to emphasize community policing.
Creating residency incentives to get more police living in the city they serve.
Assigning an assistant district attorney to a homicide case as soon as it occurs.
Those are some of the takeaways city, police, nonprofit and faith community representatives described Friday after visiting Boston and Kansas City, Mo., to learn how those cities fight violent crime and build police-community relationships.
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The Friday news conference was held as the Durham Police Department investigated the city’s 38th homicide this year. Jamel Small, 21, was found fatally shot Thursday night in a car on the 1400 block of Ida Street. All told, violent crime in Durham was up 16 percent through the first nine months of the year compared to the same period last year.
A six-member Durham delegation visited Boston from Nov. 17-19 and a nine-member delegation visited Kansas City Dec. 14-16. The trips were paid for by the U.S. Department of Justice, which recommended them after assessing Durham’s challenges at the request of Mayor Bill Bell and the city’s Violent Crime Reduction Roundtable.
The delegates included City Manager Tom Bonfield; District Attorney Roger Echols; the Rev. Mark-Anthony Middleton, pastor of the Abundant Hope Christian Church; and Michele Young, executive director of Project Build, a Durham gang prevention and intervention program.
Participants in the Boston trip described a police department steeped in community policing and practices such as making relationships with the public a part of job performance evaluations.
Middleton said that after the Boston trip he thinks Durham leaders should have a conversation about “the total redeployment of our police force” to emphasize community policing.
“We need to have a grand summit of grassroots organizations to ... not just brain storm about what we need to do in our city, but to street storm,” he said. “We need to come together as community leaders not just to talk about the problems, but work on solutions.”
Durham Police Assistant Chief Rick Pendergrass said he also wants to see more positive interaction between officers and the community, such as encounters that go beyond enforcing the law.
“We need to understand that every action a police officer makes can change a person’s life or a community for generations, so we need to make sure those encounters are positive,” he said.
The visit to Kansas City looked at focus deterrence, a model that targets a group of individuals who are causing the most violence, Bonfield said.
“It isn’t about a particular neighborhood or a particular housing development,” but those identified individuals, he explained. It requires a partnership between government agencies and the community.
Following the trips, Echols said his office will assign a prosecutor to a homicide immediately after it occurs.
Bonfield will work with the city’s new police chief next year to implement some of the practices, he said, and members of the Violent Crime Reduction Roundtable will prioritize specific actions.
Bonfield anticipates developing a process to share progress with the public.
“Ultimately the proof will be the experience and the results that come from that, whether it’s a reduction of violent crime, whether it’s a reduction of the homicide rate or improvement in community relations,” Bonfield said.