Durham Police, DPS work to fight teen violence through mentoring programs, new curriculum

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — This week, another teenager in Durham is in jail for a violent crime.

17-year-old Joseph Cates was in court this week for shooting someone, stealing their car, and crashing the stolen vehicle into a police car.

So far in 2019, dozens of teenagers in Durham have been involved in violent crime.

Digging through records on Thursday, CBS 17 learned that at four teens, a child, and a baby, have all been killed in the Bull City in 2019.

According to CBS 17’s research, of the 37 homicides this year in Durham, four of the suspects have been teenagers. 

“You think of the young people as the future of our city and our community and to see them be the victim or even be involved is certainly concerning,” said Sgt. Jessica Butler, supervisor of the Police Athletic League Unit at the Durham Police Department.

Sgt. Butler said her department is aware of the problems facing the community and they do what they can to intervene.

“We go to the schools and we look for the kids who need us the most,” Sgt. Butler said.

Butler said they are always looking for kids to participate in their Police Athletic League, a program that offers mentoring and keeps at-risk children off the streets.

“Our goal is to get them in the program when they’re young and see them through to high school and beyond,” Sgt. Butler said. 

Officials with Durham Public Schools said that the district has implemented some new curriculum that they hope will curb violence.

This year, DPS is implementing social and emotional learning curriculum in the elementary schools.

Dr. Laverne Mattocks-Perry, Sr. Executive Director for Student Support Services at DPS, said that this curriculum can help prevent future negative behaviors.

“What we know is when students feel safe, they feel like they’re a part of a community and they feel accepted,” Dr. Mattocks-Perry said. “If all of their needs are being met, then they are more likely to make good decisions and avoid some of the more negative behaviors.”

The District also partners with the Project Build Gang Intervention Program. This program provides one-on-one mentoring to teenagers who may have been exposed to gun violence in the community.

“We are attuned to the needs of the community and as a school district we are committed to doing what our part is to help our students to be able to achieve their full potential,” Dr. Mattocks-Perry said.

In addition to the Police Department’s athletic league, they also provide a program for teenagers called Police Explorers.

Butler said that at least 600 students participate in their programs for youth and that number continues to grow.

For more information on the Police Explorers and Police Athletic League go to the following websites:

Police explorers
Police Athletic League

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