Durham PD: More officers needed to fight violent crime

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The Durham Police Department needs more officers to fight crime (WTVD)

Durham Interim Police Chief Larry Smith says staffing his agency is critical. It's been a challenging first quarter for Durham Police.

According to a recent crime report, shootings, rapes, and robberies are all up. These numbers were announced just as Smith says more patrol officers are needed.

One problem, he says, is recruitment.

"Recruiters are telling us that they are having a very hard time getting qualified people to come to law enforcement profession," Smith says.

On top of this, Smith says he loses five officers a month. Some are due to retirement, but it's largely because officers leave to work for another competing agency, or they leave the profession altogether.

Smith would like to have 40 officers go through Durham Police Academy to offset attrition. Right now, though, he says the academy averages about 25 officers, who still have to go through a year of training before hitting the streets.

Currently DPD has about 39 vacant positions. To offset the gap, the city has given the police department money to pay existing officers overtime.

"Still not quite where we want to be but that helped tremendously," Smith said.

The agency's goal is to respond to 57 percent of priority calls in under 5 minutes; currently DPD is at 51 percent.

"We have not met [that goal] in three years, which leads me to believe we have got to get more officers out into our uniform patrol."

The International Association of Chiefs of Police is looking over DPD's staffing challenges to determine how many officers are needed and where they should be stationed to fight crime.

Mayor Bill Bell says the groups proposal will receive input from Durham's incoming Police Chief Cerelyn Davis and the city.

Still, Bell says keeping Durham safe requires a community effort.

"Law enforcement alone is not going to solve the issues of crime," Bell explained. "The underlying issues that we have talked about consistently - the issues of poverty, the issue of disconnected families -absent fathers."

Chief Smith also agrees that the community needs to help build safer communities.

"Find a way to get involved to do something about it. Find a way to mentor or to support a nonprofit or ministry that is trying to work on these type issues. Do something."

The city is currently discussing the fiscal budget. It plans to consider a proposal of 1.3 million dollars toward the recruitment of 20 new sworn officers.

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