Report finds majority of “possession of firearm” cases dismissed in Durham County

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – A new report is raising some concern among residents in Durham County.

The Gangs Reduction Strategy Steering Committee found that a majority of the felons who had been arrested with possession of a firearm in the last three years had their cases voluntarily dismissed.

The report found that 53 percent of the felons arrested from 2016 to 2018 for possession of a firearm had their cases dismissed.

Also, there was a more than 50 percent decline in the number of felons arrested for this charge who actually went to prison.

“When you see the numbers you certainly need to think about it,” said gang reduction strategy manager Jim Stuit. “I know there’s probably some explanation, but I still think some are being dismissed that we don’t know what the outcome is and we are curious about those cases.”

Firearm by a felon is usually charged in conjunction with other violent crimes.

Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry took over in 2019, after the three years that were researched in the study.

However, Deberry said at the meeting that just because these charges were dismissed, that doesn’t mean these felons got away with anything.       

“If the firearm by a felon is dismissed, it’s dismissed as a result of a plea deal too much more serious crimes,” Deberry said. “It is not very often in the case that we get stand-alone firearm by felony cases.”

Defense attorney Daniel Meier said that some of these cases could have been handed off to the feds.

“If the feds pick it up, the state dismisses it, but that doesn’t mean the person got away with it,” Meier said.

However, Meier said it’s not a bad idea to look into what really happened in these cases.

“Look into these dismissals and see, is it because of a plea deal? Is it because of a different prosecution? Or, are people getting away with it?” Meier said. “Right now we just don’t have the information to know.”

Members with the Gangs Reduction Strategy Steering Committee said they are looking at some recommendations in response to this study, which include Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN).

PSN would involve state and federal prosecutions, as well as other levels, looking at how they can reduce crime in the area.

In addition, they are also pushing for an increase in the number of warrantless probation searches for repeat offenders.

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