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Durham Residents Help Curb Crime by Window Shopping

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DURHAM — Some eye-catching displays in two Durham shopping centers are luring lots of business -- not to stores, but to theDurham Police Department.

Two of Durham's four police substations, which are located in the shopping centers, started displaying mug shots on their front windows six months ago.

The program is already credited with getting nearly a dozen suspects off the street.

The wanted posters are not only proving to be an effective crime-fighting tool, they are also cost-effective. Officers at a substation off Chapel Hill Road say the project has cost them about $30.

Sgt. D.C. Allen says the mug shots are also proving to be a form of entertainment for people shopping at nearby stores. He says on any given day, you can find dozens of people staring at the substation window.

Richard Brooks is one of them.

"When you run across somebody, they know where they can go to get some help, and they don't have to be scared. It will make the community more safe," says Brooks.

Investigators say the response from the community has been positive. Tuesday, some shoppers helped identify a suspect wanted in several Durham apartment break-ins.

"The gentleman came by, and said he noticed this guy in the shopping complex moments earlier," Allen says.

While the method may be old, some of the results have been surprising.

"[A suspect] just happened to stop by and look at our board, and all of a sudden he recognized a picture that was very familiar to him," says Allen.

After realizing the photo was of himself, the suspect promptly turned himself in.

Allen says the pictures will be rotated on a regular basis, and believes for every picture posted, there is someone that may have some information.

Because of its success, the Durham Police Department says it may begin posting mug shots at other areas around the city where there is pedestrian traffic.