Local News

Durham police headquarters is falling apart

Posted November 16, 2010 10:00 p.m. EST
Updated November 16, 2010 11:04 p.m. EST

— Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez invited the public to his headquarters on Tuesday, knowing they would walk away with a bad impression.

The building is literally falling apart.

“My hope is they see it in its reality,” Lopez said.

Granite columns are being held onto the outside of building with straps. Other columns could fall at any moment, Durham Police Senior Planner Lew Wardell said.

“One of them could detach and fall five stories,” Wardell said.

A section of brick on the back of the building has already fallen into a stairwell. No one was injured.

Inside the building, Wardell said space is tight.

An office chair just beyond the lobby is for prisoners just brought in.

“If the guy tries to leave, he is going to leave,” Wardell said.

People reclaiming stolen property walk by a desk where evidence is being handled.

“Packaging, sawed-off shotguns, drugs, money – again it is a very risky mix,” Wardell said.

A pipe burst in the wall is draining water down into an evidence storage room.

“At any point in time, we could have a major failure here,” Lopez said.

The headquarters, at 505 W. Chapel Hill St., was built in 1958 for an insurance company. Durham police moved into it in 1991.

Moving to another building would be an expensive project. Lopez said he knows economic times are tough, but he said it is essential to keep the city safe.

“Right now, we have to work as best we can with what we have. We want to be able to better serve this community,” Lopez said.

A consultant is working to determine what a new headquarters might look like. Those findings are expected to be completed in a few months.