DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – At Thursday’s city council work session, Durham city council members will discuss the possibility of sending civilian crash investigators to minor traffic collisions.
The civilian crash investigators, also known as CCIs, will work under the city’s new community safety department and respond to crashes where there is minor property damage and no injuries.
But before they can hire civilians to respond to traffic accidents, the legislature must first pass a local bill that gives the city permission to do this.
City council members will discuss asking the legislature to pass a local ordinance in the next upcoming session.
“A lot of our accidents don’t cross the threshold of property damage that warrant a police presence,” Durham Mayor Pro Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton said.
Middleton said hiring civilian traffic investigators to respond to minor traffic crashes, will prevent police officers from being tied up in minor crashes.
“It’s been no secret we have had staffing issues and hiring issues with our police department,” Middleton said. “We are looking for ways to better use the limited resources we have.”
According to Durham police, they have 102 police officer vacancies out of their 537 allotted positions.
Currently, some higher-ranking officers are still having to fill in on patrol to help make up for the shortage.
Additionally, according to the latest data from Durham police, there have been 182 shooting incidents from January 1 through April 2 this year, which is more than 170 last year and 178 in 2020 during that same time frame.
The number of people shot in Durham from January 1 through April 2nd is also up as 60 people have been shot this year, compared to 53 in 2021 and 54 in 2020.
Middleton said having civilians respond to minor traffic accidents could help police focus more on responding to the violent crime that’s happening in the city.
“We’re looking for that balance of freeing up police officers to do what really is their main job and that’s to address issues of violent crime, not a lot of paperwork for a fender bender,” Middleton said.
Durham City Council will discuss sending this request to the legislature on Thursday, but it will not vote on this until the next city council meeting on April 18.
The city of Fayetteville already has civilian crash investigators.
Fayetteville police officials told CBS 17 in an email on Wednesday that sending civilian crash investigators to minor traffic collisions has allowed them to focus more on serious incidents in the city, and it has helped them be more proactive in the community.