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Durham Mayor Upset Over City's Growing Crime Problem

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DURHAM, N.C. — Durham leaders have narrowed their latest search for a police chief to between 6 and 10 candidates. However, the city is not waiting for the selection of a new chief to implement new crime-fighting programs.

Last Friday,

two people

were shot and killed at Northgate Mall. Four days later, a teenage boy was shot to death, execution style, in an apartment complex. Durham Mayor Bill Bell said crime is out of control and the police department and the community need to do something about it now.

"Violent crimes and particularly homicides have reached an exceptionally undesirable level in Durham," Bell said.

Fueled by a homicide rate that has already surpassed last year's numbers, Mayor Bell is putting pressure on the police department to crack down on crime.

"We've got a job to do as a police department and we gotta do a better job. No ifs, ands or buts about it," he said.

Interim Chief Steve Chalmers said the department is solving more crimes, but he admits there is room for improvement. Police talked about several new strategies, including a sexual assault task force, robbery task force and an Hispanic outreach program. Chalmers said the department is also working on reorganizing the department.

"The goal is to put more cops on the street. There are many civilian positions in our department that could be better served with civilian personnel that are now filled with sworn personnel," Chalmers said.

The reorganization has already put four extra officers on the street.

City leaders said one of the biggest problems is repeat offenders. They plan to lobby legislators to enact changes in pre-trial release of suspects so that habitual felons cannot commit a crime and then be back out on the street a few days later.


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