Debate over Durham gangs comment rages on

February 8, 2011 3:49:34 PM PST
There's more fallout from controversial statements made by a high-ranking Durham County investigator who predicts black and Latino gangs are on the brink of war.

Major Paul Martin’s comments were published in the Durham Herald-Sun.

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The newspaper cited him as saying, “The immediate future holds the potential for an ethnic war to break out between black and Latino gangs.” He was also quoted as saying, “the middle- and upper-class will flee, first to gated communities and then to other counties.”

The remarks don’t sit well with city leaders.

"Our frustration was the tone and the tenor," explained Shelly Green with the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau. "[It] just made it sound as if a gang riot was going to erupt on the streets at any minute and that's just not true."

Perception is everything says Green and crime has to be put in perspective. So does money. The Bull City generated $37 million in tourism tax revenue last year.

"Tax revenue that funds our schools, that funds our police department, that funds our sheriff's office, and to intentionally try to harm that is not good for Durham," said Green.

The visitor's bureau closely follows crime stats and touts numbers that show Durham's crime rate falls well-below that of other cities its size.

But some residents say they are affected by crime. Jamile Lloyd's car repair shop has had its share of recent break-ins.

"The crime scene is getting really bad," he told ABC11. "It's getting to the point where we need to be aware of what's going on around us. It's not going to get any better. It's very, very tough out there."

But if there is truly a war about to begin between rival gangs, Green says more should be done.

"If there is truth and statistics that back that up, then we have a much more serious problem in Durham and we need to address that. We don't need to ignore it or sweep it under the rug," she said.

ABC11 talked to a gang interventionist in Durham Tuesday. He told us he doesn't necessarily agree with the investigators comments, but admits there are gang tensions bubbling under the surface.

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