Local News

Major's comments on Durham gang war spark concern

Posted January 27, 2011 6:37 p.m. EST
Updated January 27, 2011 7:12 p.m. EST

— A high-ranking officer in the Durham County Sheriff’s Office is speaking out about gangs in the county.

Maj. Paul Martin says in a paper he has written that gang warfare among black and Latino gangs is imminent if something doesn’t change.

“It's based upon the fact that innocent Latinos are being targeted and robbed by black gang members,” he said.

Martin says it is his opinion, based on what he’s heard from deputies on the streets, in the jail and in schools. He says it is not a warning for people to pack up and move but to be aware and for officials to react.

“You can measure a lot of things, but when it comes down to it, we need to clean up the streets and have people report the crimes,” Martin said.

Durham County Manager Mike Ruffin says that, although Martin is allowed to have a personal opinion on the issue, he is a high-ranking official and should only make statements that are based on facts.

In this case, he doesn’t have them, Ruffin says.

“I wouldn’t be concerned in most neighborhoods,” Martin said. “I brought this up because I have a concern with public safety. The public needs to know. Instead of attacking the messenger, people need to take proactive steps to prevent this from happening.”

He says programs and initiatives need to be re-evaluated.

“In my opinion, a lot of initiatives that we have need to be looked at closely, because we may not have the return, in terms of accomplishing what they were set out to do,” he said.

Ruffin says that, although Durham has a gang issue, the county is managing it and that it is no worse than anywhere else in the state.

Sheriff Worth Hill agrees.

“Durham gets a bad rap about its image, but we're a lot better off than a lot of other areas,” Hill said.

Hill says budget cuts have pulled deputies off of the streets, making the job of preventing gang violence more difficult.

“If we don't stay on top of it, it could happen,” he said.

“There doesn't need to be any excuses or social utopian grant money,” Martin said. “You have to put the cops on the street and clean up the place.”

Hill assured the public that he's keeping an eye on the problem and knows prevention is the best way to combat gang violence.