Durham mayor talks crime, police staffing and apprenticeship program for teens

Akilah Davis Image
Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Durham mayor Leonardo Williams
It's a new day in the Bull City and it's Mayor Leonardo Williams first day on the job. He spent time with ABC11 to discuss the city's crime, police staffing and new apprenticeship program for teens

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- It's a new day in the Bull City and it's mayor Leonardo William's first day on the job.

Things at City Hall, his second home, were already looking official. His name tag is up in the council chambers. While he hasn't quite unpacked in his office, he placed a photo of him and his cousin as high school drum majors on his desk as a reminder.

"This was my first opportunity at leadership," said Mayor Leonardo Williams.

Crime is still top of mind for many who live in Durham. Last month he told ABC11 he plans to tackle crime through filling positions on the police force.

According to Durham Police, there are 405 sworn police officers, but full staffing levels would be 535 officers. Recruitment efforts are ongoing.

Mayor Williams also shared details around a new apprenticeship program that would give teens jobs in tech, science, and trades. Community partners are already on board.

The new apprenticeship program for teens will launch next month. Williams believes this could be a solution to gun violence in the city.

"When their time is occupied with things building them as a person, they're not in the streets killing each other," he said.

Other items on his agenda include launching a task force for minority teens, uplifting the arts and developing a housing and economic development plan including building a new convention center.

He told ABC11 he will need support to execute everything.

"When I call on the community to activate I need them to activate," said Williams.

Community members like Frederick Farrington have expectations of its new leader. He is Durham-born and raised and said he'd like to see some follow-through from city leadership.

"Listen to the community. It's not about what you're talking about. Your agendas and showboating," he said. "More action and less talk."

ABC11 met Farrington and Helen Mangum in downtown Durham. Mangum would like the mayor to work with the police force on sensitivity and bias training.

"Going in and finding out more about how they think and why the communities are the way they are. How to approach them and not to be afraid of people," she said.

Cathy Kieler is an artist and wants to see old Durham preserved.

"We're cultural. What's going to attract people here? Music, art and public spaces," said Kieler.

ABC11 brought their concerns to the Bull City's new mayor.

"We want sensitivity training for police. Absolutely. We should always have that. Preserve Old Durham? I think we preserve buildings in this city much better than in other cities. American Tobacco campus is a prime example," said Williams.