Durham task force aims to address violence with alternatives to policing

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Since Sept. 1, there have been more than 20 shootings in Durham that have left several people injured or killed. Several homes and vehicles of innocent people have also been hit by gunfire as they have been caught in the crossfire of shootouts in different parts of the city.

City, county, and school leaders in Durham are taking steps to curb violence by creating the Community Safety and Wellness Task Force.

On Monday evening, the Durham County Board of Commissioners decided to join the efforts underway by the City of Durham and the Durham Public School Board to create the task force. It will be made up of 15 people from diverse backgrounds. The plan is to include individuals who represent areas impacted by crime.

The city, county, and DPS board will appoint five people each. Individuals who are interested in becoming a part of the task force can apply with the city, county, or DPS board.

The coalition, Durham Beyond Policing, proposed that the city create the Community Safety and Wellness Task Force last year.

“The task force is about getting to the roots of violence in a way that police can never do,” said Danielle Purifoy, a member of Durham Beyond Policing.

Purifoy said the group will look at ways to address racial and economic disparities, as that’s one factor that’s led to the recent crime.

She said the task force will focus on addressing recent gun violence through alternatives to policing.

“Police are designed to respond to harm when it occurs, but they’re not designed to actually prevent anything,” Purifoy said.

Purifoy said the task force will look at having mental health professionals respond to mental health calls rather than police. She said the group will also look at possible alternatives to school resource officers and possibly implementing de-escalation training programs for victims and perpetrators involved in violence.

Durham County BOCC Chair Wendy Jacobs said this group will meet on a regular basis and that the community can expect to see some changes over the course of the next two years.

“There needs to be a lot of different approaches to the gun violence, and I think people will want to see things happen sooner than later,” Jacobs said.

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