Will Durham police be able to serve whole city equally as it grows, but the police department shrinks?

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Victoria Felton lifts up a balloon she taped on her 6-year-old daughter’s wall to show us where a bullet struck the outside of her daughter’s wall last summer.

Just inches over, another bullet struck the outside pane of her daughter’s window.

“First, I thank God it didn’t come all the way through,” Felton said. “The times I hear gunshots, I’m running to the room to make sure she’s good or calling her name. It’s just too much.”

Felton said living at her apartment last year was like living in a war zone with constant gunfire.

She said things seemed to have slowed down until last week when three people were shot during a shoot-out at her apartment complex. One of the victims died. The other two were injured. One of the injured victims was an innocent bystander, but she was struck by a stray bullet that flew into her apartment.

While Felton dodges bullets in this part of Durham, in another part of Durham companies are investing in downtown. Google is on its way to the city, as well.

While the city’s population is expected to grow by thousands of people over the next year, the Durham Police Department is shrinking as it continues to lose officers to other departments that pay more.

Right now, the Durham Police Department has 71 officer openings.

Larry Smith with the Durham County Fraternal Order of Police said they are losing five to eight officers a month, which is the equivalent of about 60 officers a year. If they continue to lose officers at this rate, the department could have 131 officer openings this time next year.

CBS 17 asked the Durham County FOP if they continue to lose officers at this rate, will Durham Police be able to address the violent crime problem?

“Durham police will continue to do the best they can, but you can only do so much with the resources that you have,” Smith said.

Smith said if the department does not start recruiting officers, some of the city’s sidebar units may have to be disbanded so they will have enough officers to respond to calls.

Councilman Mark-Anthony Middleton said he is concerned that the police department’s resources will not be evenly distributed, as he said there are two different Durhams.

“I’m very concerned that two Durhams are being crystalized: one that deals with gunfire every night that’s losing our children and losing our babies to drive-by shootings, and then the Durham that celebrates the downtown corridor and Apple and Google coming,” Middleton said. “I’m not the best math student, but if you have limited resources, you have to make choices as to where you put them, and I think that given the history of America we know how that parses out.”

As for Felton, she just hopes more officers are recruited soon to help protect the Durham she lives in.

“My dream one day is to be able to move, live, and interact in that other part of Durham where I know that I’m safe, and my child is safe, and she can grow up without having to dodge bullets,” Felton said. “I want a piece of that other Durham.”

While the Durham Police Department does have cadets in their police academies, their last graduating academy only had five cadets and their current academy only has eight.

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