Durham Police Put 'Bull's Eye' On High-Crime Neighborhood

Oct 15, 2013

Map of the target area for the Durham Police Department's "Operation Bull's Eye" initiative
Credit Durham Police Department

Durham police officers are crediting an initiative started six years ago for reducing crime in one of the city's most violent neighborhoods. 

"Operation Bull's Eye" targeted a two-square-mile area with high rates of crime and "shots fired" calls.  Officers used enforcement and community-building programs to bring shooting incidents down by more than half and overall violent crime down by nearly 40 percent. 

Durham's deputy chief Larry Smith says the lower numbers can't be attributed to enforcement alone.  

"It's not just a crime issue.  It's a quality of life issue so when you look at education improving in the area - you look at revitalization, access to parks, access to better housing - a lot of things have affected that area outside of enforcement," Smith says.  "But the first thing you have to do is get a handle on the crime and let people feel like there's hope for that area."

Smith says the program has been successful enough to try in other areas on a smaller scale where crime has spiked.  He says the results in the target area gives them many reasons for optimism.

"It's going in the right direction, and it's gone in the right direction significantly, not just a little bit," says Smith  It's unrealistic to think that one day there will be zero crime in Northeast Central Durham or any other part of the city but especially in an area that has been historically known as a high crime area to see these type of changes in there not just in crime but also in some revitalization is quite significant."

Smith says Durham has gotten many inquiries about its approach, even presenting the principles of Operation Bull's Eye to departments in other states.