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Durham Residents Help Police Close in on Crime

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DURHAM — It is not hard to make a difference in your community. You just have to get involved. Some Durham residents have kept a close eye on homes that are magnets for crime. Now, the city is closing in and closing them down.

The city of Durham has been trying to crack down on crime by declaring houses public nuisances. It all got started with a community-based grass roots effort.

That effort has prompted many people to say the best way to clean up a neighborhood is to get the neighbors involved.

Durham Police and the District Attorney say the house at 118 Driver Street is a public nuisance. They got the ammunition to use the public nuisance law from neighborhood activists like George Crews.

"There were drug sales going on here," says Crews. "Whether it was in the house or on this corner, I'm not sure. But it was drug sales, prostitution, some violence that was happening here. It was not new for this area, but that's what Partners Against Crime is all about -- attacking the issues that are in here in this community."

Crews and a band of volunteers, called the Northeast Central Durham Partners Against Crime, watched, took notes and took pictures of homes they saw as crime magnets.

"We're not looking to leave," says Crews. "We want to raise our children here in this community, and we want to do it in a safe environment. So, one of the things, rather than leaving this community, we decided to come together and attack this issue."

The result? Four homes were declared public nuisances.

One of the owners of the Driver Street house says the neighborhood activists have missed the mark.

"I'm not a nuisance," says Sandra Brooks. "This is going on out on the street, not in the house."

District Attorney Jim Hardin says the houseisa problem and the community-based effort is the best way to resolve it.

"It's about getting the community involved in helping law enforcement solve crime problems," says Hardin. "And without their help, we're ineffectual at best."

The owners of the houses targeted as a public nuisance have 90 days to to clean up the trouble. If they don't, the city can seize the home. Demolition is also a possibility.

Crews and his group says they have their eyes on other properties in the area as well.