Citizens cut crime rates in Bull’s Eye

By Laura Medlin
UNC-CH Staff Writer
The Durham VOICE

Operation Bull’s Eye, which concluded in July 2011, significantly reduced crime in a 2-square-mile area in East Durham over the course of four years, according to Jason Schiess, the analytic services manager at the Durham Police Department. That could not have happened without the help of dedicated community members.

Priscilla Barbee, a lifelong resident of Durham, watches her son play soccer at Forest Hills Park. She thinks organizations like PAC are important because they get the community involved. (Staff photo by Laura Medlin)

Operation Bull’s Eye, an initiative of the Durham Police Department, was launched in 2007.  It’s goal was to reduce violent gun crime in the “Bull’s Eye,” a region that makes up for less than 2 percent of Durham’s area but where 20 percent of violent gun crime occurred, according to Durham police.

There was a more than 50 percent decrease in violent gun crimes since July 2006, which was more than double the citywide reduction for violent gun crimes. There was also a significant reduction in the sounds of shots fired and calls to the police regarding drugs and prostitution, according to Schiess’ reports.

“There is no way we could have achieved a 50 percent decline in violent gun crimes in that area by ourselves. It took a real team effort, and that includes the community,” Schiess said by email.

Community activist Wanda Boone said a number of groups besides law enforcement made Operation Bull’s Eye a success: the city council, county commissioners, judges and the mayor.

Boone is the chair of the Public Safety Committee in Northeast Central Durham, a co-founder and executive director of Durham Together for Resilient Youth, and the founder of Woman2Woman. Last year she was a co-facilitator of PAC 1.

Boone said there are many ways for citizens to reduce crime in their neighborhood.

“Citizens in this city are poised to make a difference, and they’ve already started,” Boone said.

One of the main groups that is helping people to make a difference is Partners Against Crime (PAC), in which volunteers collaborate with police to solve problems in their community. There are five districts in Durham.

PAC meetings give people an opportunity to bring their concerns before police and for police to respond to them. Boone said about 75 people, many from Northeast Central Durham, come to the PAC 1 monthly meetings at Holton Career and Resource Center.

Priscilla Barbee of Durham has attended some PAC 4 meetings, south of the Bull’s Eye. She thinks the meetings are important and useful because they get the community involved. She said Durham has a bad reputation for crime, but she feels safe.

Citizens on Patrol, or Citizen Observer Patrol (COP), a part of PAC, allows citizens to take a more activist approach to preventing crime. COP members patrol the district in uniform on the lookout for suspicious activities.

According to Boone, “the way we prevent crime is to have more citizen involvement.”

Neighborhood Watch is a similar organization in which volunteers, led by block captains, watch for unusual activity in their assigned area and look after their neighbors’ houses when they are away.

There was a training session for new block captains January 28 at Holton Career and Resource Center.

Prior to the event, Boone said, “I think we will see the motivation of people at the Neighborhood Watch training.”

Project Safe Neighborhoods, East Durham Children’s Initiative, Bands Against Destructive Decisions and Neighborhood Improvement Services are instrumental in mobilizing community members to prevent crime, Boone said.

“The part that needs to be heightened and increased is the influence of citizens acting in concert with law enforcement,” said Boone.

Schiess agrees.  “There are a lot of complex factors that make Northeast Central Durham what it is today, and there is no more powerful change agent than a community that cares about its future. That cooperation and commitment by the community is essential for these gains to be maintained or to grow even bigger,” he said.

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