Feds to offer advice on how to combat gun-related crime in Durham

DURHAM (WTVD) -- Durham city leaders got a fresh perspective on how best to combat violent crime on Wednesday.

A team of analysts with the federal Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center is taking a closer look at gun violence in Durham and reported its findings at a meeting at City Hall.

The group was asked to provide crime prevention and reduction recommendations based on its review of recent gun-related crimes and the police department's response to those incidents.

The Durham Police Department's 2014 crime report released in March revealed a 15 percent increase in violent crimes, including homicide, rape, and aggravated assaults.

Durham's Police Chief Jose Lopez also noted a staffing shortage in the report. The department has 512 sworn officers on staff and an additional 120 non-sworn employees.

According to a department spokesperson, officers have responded to 9 homicides so far this year. At least three were gun-related.

While there have been a number of apparent drive-by shootings since last December, the police department does not keep track of those specific types of shootings. Gun-related incidents are categorized as aggravated assaults, according to a department spokesperson.

Since the end of March, there have been 327 aggravated assaults reported in Durham with 209 of them involving a firearm that may or may not have been discharged. Last year, a total of 577 aggravated assaults involved a firearm.

The team of analysts with the U.S. Department of Justice will present its findings and recommendations at 4 p.m.

The city manager and the police chief have already signed off on a strategic plan for the police department.

It lists training and accreditations among the department's strengths and better communication between command staff and line staff as a weakness.

The complete report conducted by the team of analysts can be viewed here.

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