Crime drop due to policing and bold entrepreneurs

By Sarah Mansur
UNC Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

Operation Bull’s Eye began in 2007 when the Durham Police Department found that one-fourth of all calls reporting gunshots were made in a one mile radius of North Holman Street and Morning Glory Avenue in East Durham.

“We’re talking about 25 percent of all the shots fired calls coming from a section of the city that was two percent of the total land area.  That’s a really, really significant concentration,” said Jason Schiess, analytical services manager at the Durham Police Department.

This study conducted by the Crime Analysis Unit of the Durham Police from May 1, 2006 to April 30, 2007 also showed that 26.48 percent of all violent gun crimes committed in Durham were taking place in a one mile radius area of 1210 Wall St. in East Durham, according to the 2007 Crime Analysis Unit report.

This disproportionate number of violent gun crimes that took place in East Durham prompted the Durham Police Department to initiate Operation Bull’s Eye, said Schiess.

Since Operation Bull’s Eye began in 2007, the number of violent gun crimes in the “Bull’s Eye” area decreased 51.63 percent and the number of all violent crimes in this area decreased 40.7 percent, according to 2011 data from the Durham Police.

Wendy Clark represents the sort of bold entrepreneur who is making a difference in the community. (Staff photo by Sarah Mansur)

The main purpose of this operation was to reduce violent gun crimes, Schiess said.

The data from 2011 shows that violent gun crimes deceased from 184 in 2007 to 89 in 2011.  The number of all violent crimes has also gone down: 339 in 2007 to 201 in 2011, said Schiess.

Operation Bull’s Eye used a buffer area to determine whether crime was being displaced.

“If we had a lot of drug sales going on and we made a concerted effort towards removing drug dealers from the Bulls Eye area, it makes sense that they might just move toward another particular area where enforcement is not prevalent,” said Stephen Mihaich, Deputy Chief of the Durham Police Department. “But during operation Bulls Eye we found that this displacement did not take place as is evidenced by the reduction in crime in the Buffer Area.”

The Bull’s Eye area is two square miles and the buffer area consists of the one square mile directly surrounding it.

Crime was reduced in the Bull’s Eye area and in the buffer area, said Chief Mihaich.

In the buffer area, the number of violent gun crimes was reduced: 57 in 2007 decreased to 45 in 2011.  All violent crimes also decreased in the buffer area: 115 in 2007 to 90 in 2011.

“When you look at the fact that we had almost a 50 percent reduction in violent crime in that three year period, I don’t think you can put everything on law enforcement,” Chief Mihaich said.  “There was a lot of economic development taking place in those communities around the Bull’s Eye area, a lot of businesses moving in, and a lot of people renovating homes.”

Operation Bull’s Eye implemented a three-prong approach to reducing violent gun crimes in the Bull’s Eye area, said Chief Mihaich said.

These three-prongs include suppression, prevention and reentry.

Durham and Wake counties received $2.5 million to split between them from the Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative grant in 2008.  Durham County gave $0.5 million to suppression, $0.25 million to reentry, and $0.5 million to prevention.

Schiess said that this three-prong approach was necessary because the Bull’s Eye initiative would not be successful as strictly a police response.

“When we launched Bull’s Eye, the police department was very aggressive about putting out the message that this was not solely an enforcement issue, that the rest of the city really needed to get behind us and address the root causes of crime in Northeast Central Durham, specifically the Bull’s Eye Area,” Schiess said.

Wendy Clark stands proudly in front of the renovated John O'Daniel Exchange building on Gilbert Street. (Staff photo by Sarah Mansur)

For Wendy Clark, addressing the root of crime in Northeast Central Durham meant redeveloping the John O’Daniel Business Center.

When Clark came upon the building in October 2007, she said the center was blighted and uninhabitable.  The building housed a Hispanic nightclub that was destroyed in a fire, said Clark.

Clark said the renovations to the center were finished by April 15, 2009.  The center now houses eleven businesses including Clark’s own cleaning service called Carpe Diem Cleaning.

Clark said that her business is able to serve the community of Northeast Central Durham by providing residents with employment, income and stability.

“Yes, we are scrubbing toilets in Carpe Diem, but we are providing economic opportunity, community, and support with our company culture,” Clark said.

When Clark first moved to Northeast Central Durham in 2000, she said that it was not like the rural neighborhoods she was used to living in.

“I knew I was moving into the inner-city,” Clark said. “I’ve called 911 more times than I ever did before.  I had a gang member as my neighbors.  It was an adjustment.”

Despite these potential dangers, Clark said she loves living in her neighborhood and loves the community of Northeast Central Durham.

Clark said she thinks the revitalization of Northeast Central Durham, specifically the development of the Business Center, has improved the quality of life for the community overall.

Clark’s sister, Jessica Clark, works for Carpe Diem Cleaning as the vice president of operations.

“The police have been extremely responsive when there are problems which has made us feel safe and that brings positive traffic into the community,” said Jessica Clark.  This greater sense of security, due to increased law enforcement, has allowed more private businesses to go through with their operations in Northeast Central Durham, said Jessica Clark.

“We have very regularly gotten feedback from residents that things are so much better,” Schiess said.  “Are there still issues in Northeast Central Durham? Sure.  But there has been a significant improvement,” said Schiess.
Operation Bull’s Eye:
Durham Police Department:
Durham Exchange:
Crime Analysis Unit: