‘We need action’ – Durham citizens weigh in on biggest issues ahead of mayoral primary

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Just days away from the Oct. 5 municipal primary election in Durham, some voters are speaking out about the biggest issues plaguing the city. They include concerns with record crime rates, public safety staffing shortages, and public housing woes.

Seven candidates have filed to run for Durham mayor. They include Rebecca Barnes, Charlitta Burruss, Javiera Caballero, Sabrina (Bree) Davis, Jahnmaud Lane, Elaine O’Neal, and Daryl Quick.

The mayor’s race comes as the city has seen almost the same amount of gunshot wounds as this time last year.

Deadly shootings in Durham are up 37 percent this year as 33 people have been shot and killed so far in 2021, while 22 people had been shot and killed this time last year.

As far as the total number of gunshot wounds, data from Durham police shows 205 people have been shot so far this year. This time last year, there were 234 people who had been shot.

CBS 17 spoke to one Durham mom whose 11-year-old was struck by a stray bullet a year ago while riding in his family’s car. They were on their way to his grandmother’s house. He was shot in the leg, spent two months in the hospital, underwent multiple surgeries, and it took him six months to walk again.

A year later, he is not only walking, but he is running and playing soccer.

Within that time, 297 more people have been shot in Durham.

“It’s been a year, have the stats changed?” his mother asked. “We vote people into these positions, and you have to ask yourself as leaders, ‘what are they doing?'”

The city also seems to be facing a crisis when it comes to hiring people in public safety.

Currently, 35 percent of the 911 operator positions at the Durham Emergency Communications Center are vacant, which is a total of 21 positions.

Durham police are also working to fill the 69 vacant positions in its department and officials with the Durham County Sheriff’s Office said 56 of its detention officers positions are vacant.

As CBS 17 has previously reported, this is forcing sheriff deputies to work overtime shifts where they fill in as detention officers at the jail multiple times a month.

Some mayoral candidates’ platforms talk about how filling these positions in public safety is a top priority.

While some candidates are in favor of increasing community policing, others think sending unarmed responders to mental health calls will help address the problem so that police can focus more on the violent crime in the community.

Another problem facing the Durham community is concerns about the living conditions in public housing.

Kaya Bowling lives in the Club Boulevard public housing community in Durham. She said she has waited for months for maintenance to come out and fix her electric sockets, as she said none of the outlets in her living room or kitchen work properly.

Bowling said she also has concerns about rust in her bathtub and that the floor in her living room needs to be repaired.

The Durham Housing Authority said Thursday it has a backlog of 450 work orders. It is working to hire more maintenance workers to help complete maintenance requests.

Bowling said she is hoping the next mayor will work to improve the living conditions in public housing.

“I don’t feel as though these people care about us,” Bowling said. “I would like to see some action. Don’t talk too much, just do it. Find out what we need, and just do it. It’s just that simple, we need action, that’s it, that’s all.”

Early voting for the primary municipal election runs until Saturday. See below for the early voting times and locations.

Oct. 1
8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Oct. 2
8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.

North Regional Library, 221 Milton Rd.
East Regional Library, 211 Lick Creek Ln.
South Regional Library, 4505 S. Alston Ave.
Durham County Main Library, 300 N Roxboro St.
NCCU Turner Law Building, 640 Nelson St.

Election Day: Oct. 5

Polls open from 6:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.

For a closer look at the different mayoral candidates’ platforms:
Rebecca Barnes
Javiera Caballero
Sabrina (Bree) Davis
Jahnmaud Lane
Elaine O’Neal
Daryl Quick:
Quick said that gun violence is the number one issue plaguing Durham today. He said that if elected, he will work closely with the Durham Police Department and the District Attorney’s office on preventing future crime and keeping violent offenders off the streets. He said he will push for more community policing.

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