Published: Jan 12, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Jan 12, 2013 05:44 PM
Though gun homicides in Durham fell in 2012, the message those at a Together for Resilient Youth (TRY) meeting Wednesday heard was that it is still too high, and civilians can help reduce it.
Jennifer Snyder, of the Durham Police Department’s Project Safe Neighborhoods reported that there were 20 gun homicides in 2012, down from 26 in 2011. The record number of homicides in the city was 41 in 1997.
Snyder offered tips for civilian safety, starting with getting to know neighbors, learning their schedules and letting one another know when neighbors will be out of town or when a strange car might be parked in front of the house.
She urged that homes and cars be kept locked and nothing valuable be left where it can be seen, closing curtains at night and not leaving valuables in a car.
Civilians who possess guns should store them in a locked cabinet with bullets removed and secured in a separate place, Snyder said.
Gun locks should be used during transportation or when guns are out of their locked cabinets, she said. Gun locks are available for free at Durham police substations, the Durham County Health Department, the Durham County Jail and the Durham County Sheriff’s Office.
Gun serial numbers should be photographed in case the firearms are stolen.
Reporting criminal activity is essential to keeping neighborhoods safe, Snyder said, and she gave three ways it can be done.
Dial 911 to report suspicious activity, crimes in progress or situations that require an immediate response by emergency personnel. Operators will ask for a name, but callers do not have to give one if they are worried about retaliation by criminals, Snyder said.
Also, in further efforts to ease callers’ fears about retaliation, if a 911 call is used in a news broadcast, North Carolina law requires the voice of the caller to be altered.
For non-emergency situations that require an officer to respond, the number is 919-560-4600.
Also, Crimestoppers at 919-683-1200 provides a way for civilians to report information about crimes anonymously, and to receive a cash reward if the tip leads to the identification and arrest of someone wanted for a felony.
The officer immediately assigns a fictitious name to Crimestoppers callers. They have to call Crimestoppers back to collect their rewards.Witness testimony
The meeting’s other speaker, Special Agent Marvin Franklin of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, said anonymous tips are helpful, but that it is also important to have witnesses who are willing to testify in court.
When citizens call the police, Franklin said, they should also be sure to remember details about the situation, so they can give officers a good description of what and who they saw. That will increase the chances that someone will be caught if a crime did take place.
Franklin said that in his opinion, there are many contradictions in the way guns are regulated and crimes are punished. For instance, he said, even though a background check is required to buy a gun from a gun dealer, once a gun is in the hands of a citizen, he can turn around and sell it to someone else right away without performing a background check.
Franklin said that the heart of the problem is disaffected youth who haven’t reached maturity and feel they aren’t in control of their lives.
“These problems lie first and foremost in the hearts and minds of men and women,” Franklin said.
Project Safe Neighborhoods is a Durham Police Department initiative in response to gun violence. It focuses on partnerships with federal, state and local law enforcement and community and faith-based organizations.