US/NC/Durham/crime

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Durham has a reputation for having relatively high crime rates compared to many of its neighbors, but this is at least partly because Durham does not attempt to be economically exclusive.

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Issues

from Woozle

With regard to being "tough on crime" (as proposed by Thomas Stith in his 2007 mayoral campaign):

Speaking as someone who has been a repeated burglary victim, in an otherwise-nice neighborhood which has been experiencing a rash of burglaries over the past few years, I actually don't think "getting tough on crime" is the right approach. Some of the specific items Stith plans seem more or less okay, but overall I don't want to see more security checks, more paranoia, more "zero-tolerance" policies. Also, I really hate RICO (far too much anti-drug hysteria went into it), and the focus on "gangs" (aside from leading to a lot of really stupid policies in the schools) is starting to seem like a smokescreen – another excuse, like the war on terror.

The way to reduce crime is through a combination of sane policies, e.g.:

  • spending more resources on rescuing neighborhoods and restoring abandoned houses to use rather than just knocking them down
  • providing better communication between police and citizens (why isn't there an email address for reporting minor crimes or sending in tips?)
  • not making it quite so easy for people just to move on out to the latest greytown subdivision when existing neighborhoods start to get rough – provide some incentive for people to stick around and keep the existing neighborhoods vibrant (the much-opposed home transfer tax, which is now available for us to use, would be a small step in the right direction)
  • looking at the national problem of our transient lifestyle, where the upper-middle class moves on to a new job in a new town every 5-7 years – is there anything we can do locally to work against this? Transience works against neighborhood stability, as it repeatedly wipes out any energy residents might invest towards getting to know their neighbors and working to build long-term neighborhood safety. This is especially a problem with the middle and upper-middle classes, who tend to be the most mobile and also have, relative to those lower on the income scle, more resources which might be set to work against crime.
  • gang regime change – most gangs may be formed by hardened, cynical outsiders who set them up as a growing national franchise (it's not clear what percentage of gangs are franchised versus home-grown), but they are joined by young kids who mainly want something to be a part of (and who are often given a devil's choice of joining or being a victim). With city and police support, it might be possible to help any of the kids who still have some idealism left to either turn the whole gang into a force for community good, or at least to shave members off by giving them more appealing options (and perhaps some special protections, to help prevent reprisals for leaving). Better communications with gang members (especially newer members who don't have a position of authority to protect) would help a lot, as it will be important not to offer them a deal which seems like "selling out".
    • It's also not clear how much of a problem gang violence really is in Durham, and how much is just hype – an excuse for authoritarian leader types to impose more rules and consolidate their power. One certainly sees more news articles about {students being punished for breaking rules that were imposed as anti-gang measures} than about {actual gang violence} (of the latter, in Durham, I recall exactly zero unless you count one incident which was not attributed to a gang but which to me reeked of some kind of organized frame-up.).

In summary: The resources of intelligence, reason, and data-gathering need to be brought to bear on this problem; using brute-force is just playing whack-a-mole.

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