DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — As people who live in public housing communities in Durham are voicing their concerns about gun violence in their communities, officials with the Durham Housing Authority said they have filled safety manager and safety coordinator positions that have been vacant for most of the year.
Durham Housing Authority CEO Anthony Scott said these two positions are part of DHA’s Resident Safety Office team. He said this team is not a first responder, but they serve as a liaison between DHA, residents and law enforcement.
Scott said their last safety manager retired in January and the safety coordinator resigned shortly after that. He said they have recently filled both positions and the RSO team will soon begin regular operations.
This comes as DHA residents who live at different public housing complexes have voiced concerns about shootings in their communities.
Jemillia McClain lives at Oxford Manor, a public housing community off Old Oxford Road in north Durham.
McClain said that she and her four-year-old daughter hear gunshots at least once or twice a week.
“My daughter doesn’t know it’s guns,” Jemillia said. “I tell her it’s just firecrackers, because I don’t want her to know its gunfire, she’s four.”
Oxford Manor isn’t the only Durham Housing Authority Complex in Durham dealing with this problem.
In the last two months there have been deadly shootings at Liberty Street, McDougald Terrace and Cornwallis Road.
Last month, CBS 17 went through hundreds of police reports and found that there have been at least 35 shooting incidents within a block of the public housing complexes in Durham within the first six months of the year.
“We care about where we live, we care about where our children grow up,” McClain said. “We live here in a community where we want better for our children and ourselves.”
When digging into what efforts are underway to help address safety concerns at these complexes, CBS 17 found out from DHA’s CEO Anthony Scott that the housing authority has a Resident Safety Office Team that has been in place for at least 10 years.
Scott said their duties include conducting safety reviews with residents, holding monthly safety meetings with residents and participating in various crime reduction programs with the city and county.
While both the safety manager and a safety coordinator positions have been vacant for most of the year, he said the safety coordinator they recently hired has started and is getting acclimated with the public housing communities. He said the safety manager will start work soon.
McClain said she has lived in public housing in Durham for years and that she has never heard of the RSO team before. But she is hoping that once it gets up and running again, that she will see a difference in the community.
“We want people in those offices to care and we want them to follow through and follow up,” McClain said. “That sounds awesome, we would love to see that in action.”
Durham Police has increased patrols in many of the public housing communities since they created their Crime Area Target Team in April.
While the new gunfire detection technology ShotSpotter will cover several of the public housing communities where gunfire has been a problem– such as McDougald Terrace and Liberty Street– the ShotSpotter coverage area will not include Cornwallis Road or Oxford Manor.