Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Bell Can't Be Un-Rung - A Letter to the Sheriff's Office

In my capacity as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau, addressing Durham's image comes with the territory.  Below is letter sent to Sheriff Worth Hill explaining DCVB's position with regard to comments made by Major Paul Martin, a Deputy with the Durham County Sheriff's office.

Durham has fought image issues related to crime for many, many years. Here are just a few of the kinds of comments I see daily in my position.
“I imagine Durham is pretty dangerous…I don’t read the Durham paper, and if there was anything [good] in the Raleigh paper, I don’t know that I’d pay attention to it.”

“Come to Durham and visit the crime capital of NC! Murder and drugs are just a couple of wonderful things to look forward to when visiting!”

“Top cities to visit while wearing a bullet-proof vest maybe...”

Headline: “Cary shines in safest cities rankings; Durham doesn’t.” Triangle Business Journal, November 22, 2010. (Durham was ranked safer than Fayetteville, Winston-Salem, Greensboro and Charlotte.)

Despite fighting these stereotypes and negative water cooler comments for years, Durham has been named one of 41destinations in the WORLD to visit in 2011 (as per the New York Times.) The 6.31 million visitors to Durham last year brought in more than $37 million dollars in tax revenue to this community…the kind of tax revenue that helps funds law enforcement among other things.
If the Department believes there are indeed credible threats of ethnic “wars” in the immediate future, by all means let us know. I couldn’t in good conscience continue to tell visitors to come here.
If this is the rhetoric of one individual, please use your influence to help him understand these comments made publicly do a grave injustice to our community and serve only to further perpetuate the myth that Durham is nothing more than a wasteland of gang violence.

I offer these comments sincerely. We have a strong desire to put crime statistics in perspective, not to ignore, apologize, cover up or offer excuses for crime. This, however, seems way over the top.
I don't presume to know what public safety professionals encounter every day.  But I sit on the Durham Crime Cabinet and expect that law enforcement agencies would alert the public in an appropriate way if there was merit to the theories presented in Major Martin's paper. 

Once the bell has been rung, the vibrations ripple far and wide.

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