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Durham Police Consider Closing Substations

Posted December 8, 2006

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— After 20 years of locating substations throughout the city, the Durham Police Department is looking at abandoning the community policing tactic.

Police estimate each of the department's five substations in shopping centers and neighborhoods cost local taxpayers $250,000 a year. To cut costs, the department wants to use a two-precinct system.

"A lot of people want (substations) in their community. It's a matter of how much can we afford," Deputy Police Chief Ron Hodge said, adding that officers would still work a particular beat out of their cars.

"We don't deliver police services primarily out of buildings. We deliver police services with an officer in a police car assigned to a beat," he said.

Durham City Council members have expressed concern about the move and have refused to endorse it. But some neighborhood activists said the police department's plan might offer a more effective way of policing.

A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for Dec. 18.

The Raleigh Police Department has moved the other way, opening its first substations four years ago. The department has six stations across the city, and spokesman Jim Sughrue said it's a matter of convenience and public perception.

"I think it offers advantages," Sughrue said. "I think there's some sense of security knowing an officer is close. I think there's a huge convenience factor for the community."

Durham hair stylist Randy Thomas said he hopes the police department changes its mind and keeps its substations, including one next to his salon, open.

"The substation brings a sense of peace because of the simple facts -- you don't need to see police officers, just the presence of the cars," Thomas said.

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