Duke professor awarded $150k prize for work on gun violence

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Duke University professor Phil Cook with the Sanford School of Public Policy has reason to smile after being one of two recipients for the 2020 Stockholm Prize in Criminology. The award is the result of a decades-long career in studying gun violence and its effects on society.

Part of his studies has examined why gun violence happens at any given frequency.

"The world is awash with interesting challenges," Cook said in a Duke University news release. "People kill people, but guns make it real easy to kill people."

Cook said he believes public officials should dedicate the necessary resources to law enforcement to maximize their efforts in reducing crime. He considers his approach to be scientific, based on his decades-long career in studying the issue.

"Everything that I've looked at says that the type of weapon matters a great deal," Cook said. "And it matters in particular in whether the victim in the assault lives or dies."

In a 2015 study, Cook found Durham Police only arrested a mere 10 percent of criminals suspected of non-fatal shootings. The percentage jumped to 50 percent for arrests and convictions if the victim dies.

"That's a very slim chance that if you shoot somebody in Durham that you're going to get arrested for it," said Cook. "You can shoot another person with virtually impunity because the police and detectives had not had the resources to do their job effectively."

One of those tools is ShotSpotter, which Durham City Council voted against in a 5-2 vote earlier this year.

Councilman Mark-Anthony Middleton is one of the councilmembers who voted in favor of the tool. He told ABC11 that he has renewed his position for the program and hopes the Council will reconsider the idea.

"The first step of the solution is to agree that we need to treat this as a very serious problem," Cook said. "We need to upgrade the police and courts. Get them to focus on this more than they even are already."

Cook plans to accept his award in Stockholm in June 2020.
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