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Durham Citizens Speak Out Against Unfavorable Perception Of City

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DURHAM, N.C. — A new survey measures people's perceptions of Durham -- not just people who live in Durham, but those outside, too.

The Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau commissioned the survey. It showed some interesting contrasts.

More than two-thirds of people who live in Durham are pleased and proud of Durham.

"The people are wonderful, and there are various activities that you can do in Durham," resident Susan Yancey said.

Said resident Susan Lauer: "It's got some really unique places, great restaurants, nice people."

The perception is different across the county line. More than two-thirds of people in Wake County either have a negative impression of Durham or don't know.

"We always see things on the TV about the crime and the gangs," said Raleigh worker Becky Norman.

Said Raleigh worker Todd McGee: "They seem to have a lot of crime over there, serious crime."

Overall, according to Reyn Bowman, of the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau, crime in Durham is below the national average for a "cohort" of cities similar to Durham.

Nevertheless, there's the perception that it is worse than that.

"It's a tough problem," Bowman said. "People accept gossip very quickly as part of their belief system."

The gossip also can have a ripple effect.

"That has huge economic consequences," Bowman said, "costs jobs, taxable revenue."

Recent projects like American Tobacco and SouthPoint Mall have not changed people's perception of Durham. Seventy-one percent of out-of-towners said their opinion of Durham has not changed over the past three years in spite of the new attractions.

When asked why she thought neighboring towns or counties don't have a good impression of Durham, Yancey said: "I think because they haven't spent the time here that the residents of Durham have."

Durham is a melting pot. Half the population is not white, and half the people who work in Durham do not live in Durham.

"That creates a lot of confusion," Bowman said.

The confusion stretches between neighborhoods.

"People in Durham don't like people in Raleigh," Raleigh resident Alice Crawley said, "and people in Raleigh don't like people in Durham."

In Durham, that raises concerns, as well as question marks -- because what other people think can make a deep impression.

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