Mayor Bell defends Durham's law enforcement

March 15, 2008 9:25:52 PM PDT
The mayor of Durham is speaking out about the student murders that have shocked the Triangle.

Bill Bell is answering questions about gang violence in his city and if it had anything to do with the deaths of the two students.

"These things happen," Mayor Bell said in response to the murder of UNC body president Eve Carson. "Unfortunately they do happen. And if we knew the answer as to how we could have prevented it. I'm sure that would have happened also. But we didn't."

And the two young men charged with her murder -- both Laurence Lovette and Demario Atwater were on parole the night Carson was killed. Police are investigating a possible gang link.

"We have gangs across North Carolina," Bell said. "In fact, I'm co-chairing an effort among the mayors of North Carolina to get legislation to deal with gangs. So it's not isolated to Durham."

There is also concern over the way Durham handles young, repeat offenders. Some on the city council call the system a revolving door.

Back in November, before the murders of Carson and Duke graduate student Abijhit Mahato, Lovette was arrested for burglarizing a home at the Durham County Club.

By January Lovette was back on the street, sentenced only to probation. An investigation into why he was on the street is underway.

"I think we need to wait and find out more about what has actually happened before I try to comment on why these people weren't in jail, or why they were out on probation," Bell said.

A recent study found there are more than 1,000 active gang members in the Bull City.


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