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Bell: Durham's future is 'so bright we might need shades'

Posted February 19, 2015

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— Police-community relations, from new rules for demonstrations to a report claiming racial bias within the Durham Police Department and local protests in response to police shootings nationwide, was one of the themes defining 2014 for the City of Durham, a subject Mayor Bill Bell touched on during his State of the City address on Thursday.

Bell, delivering his 13th address, referred to a committee meeting on “Strengthening Police-Community Relations in America’s Cities” he attended during a January conference.

Recommendations from the group included addressing racial and economic disparities, community distrust of government entities and improving police department practices.

Bell said city leaders will review the list of suggestions.

“I have repeatedly said that they probably have one of the more difficult responsibilities in our city administration in serving our city,” said Bell, referring to Durham police officers. “At the same time, we must always evaluate how those services are being delivered and work to improve those areas in which they may be deficient, while applauding and acknowledging those efforts that go beyond the normal call of duty, or in solving very difficult cases.”

Bell highlighted a number of the city’s 2014 accomplishments, including:

  • The city’s unemployment rate is 4.4 percent. In comparison, the statewide unemployment rate is 5.5 percent.
  • The city maintained its triple-A rating with the three major bond rating agencies: Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch.
  • Durham’s population increased 28.55 percent between 2001 and 2014, but violent and property crime has decreased during that time span.

Continuing to reduce crime will take community involvement, something Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez says is key.

"We are going to the neighborhoods, identifying the individuals who are causing a lot of the disruption in the city and dealing with them," he said.

Durham was also ranked on multiple national lists, including Forbes’ America’s Smartest Cities (15), NerdWallet’s Best Cities for Young Entrepreneurs (18) and The Active Times’ America’s 25 Fittest Cities (23).

“The list goes on,” Bell said. “Accolades that show that Durham’s future is bright…so bright, in fact, that we just might need shades.”

Some of the city’s 2015 priorities include:

  • Completing Phase 1 and starting Phase 2 of Southside East, a mixed-income apartment development formerly known as the “Rolling Hills” community, and completing construction of Southside West, a group of single-family homes.
  • Planning Durham police's new headquarters.
  • Moving forward with the Durham-Orange Light Rail project.
  • Preparing the city for fiber-optic broadband internet.

Bell also updated his Reducing Poverty Initiative, which was the focus of his 2014 speech. After a kick-off session in March 2014 and reviewing results from a community survey, the initiative’s six task forces are expected to implement their plans in 2015.

“As I said last year, the road to reducing poverty is not easy, and is mostly uphill,” he said. “I have seen over the last few months that people in poverty are willing to work in partnership with the many people who are willing to assist them. It is a journey that we must continue.”


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  • Clayton Mack Feb 20, 2015
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    That's what long time residents try to tell folks on here. If you don't live in the bad parts of town you seldom have to deal with crime any more than someone in a similarly sized city. if you want to avoid crime completely, then you should move to a farm miles away from any urban area.

    But as of now, Durham is the best city in the Triangle. The only thing missing is a nightclub/bar district.

  • Bob Smith Feb 20, 2015
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    If Durham could only clean up its crime problem, it could be a good place to live and work. It is sad that too many good people in Durham have to put up with the criminal activity as a normal way of life.

  • Christopher Rose Feb 20, 2015
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    Durhams future problem is going to be gentrification. Rich white hipsters are taking over old historic neighborhoods displacing the poor minorities that used to live there. The other day I drove by an AME church that had an entire new high end condo stack and a rebuilt neighborhood going up right beside it. Nothing is improving for the poor there. Funny thing is most of them consider themselves progressive and admire the cities "grit". Problem is they wind up forcing the property values up to the point that the "grit" can't afford to live there after they build their micro breweries and boutique eateries. And then the place just becomes Cary except with big beards, more vinyl records, and better beer. But then again Hipsters love Irony right?

  • Aaron Smith Feb 20, 2015
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    Who gives a care about crime? Stay out of the bad areas and you are fine, just like any city.

    Durham has by far the best restaurants, scene, activities, and vibe of any city. The rest of triangle is vanilla as it gets. Durham has some grit. Hey, it's not for everyone.

  • Eli Seed Feb 20, 2015
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    Well, Peter, for the last 10 years for which I could find data, ending in 2012, there have been a total of 246 murders in Durham. Let's pretend those all happened in 1 year, and let's pretend 2015 is on the same pace. That's about 2 murders every 3 days, so going based on that average, you would need to look back no further than Tuesday of this week to find "when a day goes by when there's not a murder in the news." As your request was to demonstrate that fewer than 100% of days have murders in Durham, I think missing by 33% even after being spotted TEN TIMES the average more than qualifies and more than answers your request.

    You're welcome.

  • Peter Panda Feb 20, 2015
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    Ha...and you say I'm the one with no clue??!!? Just read the newspapers or on-line news sites and let me know when a day goes by when there's not a murder in the news.

  • Rick Price Feb 20, 2015
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    Give me break. Mayor Bell talked about how crime was down . HE COMPARED LAST YEAR TO 2001. What a joke.

  • Aaron Smith Feb 20, 2015
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    You obviously have no clue about durham. Bar none it is the best city in the triangle.

  • Peter Panda Feb 19, 2015
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    someone obviously doesn't read the news or police blotters