February 2018 PAC 2 Meeting Notes

February 12, 2018
Minutes of Meeting
DPS Training Facility
2107 Hillandale Rd, Durham, NC 27705

Partners Against Crime – District 2 – February 2018 Meeting Notes

The February 2018 PAC2 meeting was held Monday, February 12th from 6:00-8:00 p.m., in the cafeteria at the DPS Training Facility, 2107 Hillandale Rd (corner of Hillandale & Carver).  Facilitators were Ginger Blubaugh and Zion Tankard.

6:00-6:04 p.m. (Ginger)
Ginger welcomed attendees, addressed housekeeping needs, first time guests, birthdays, and made the following announcements:

PAC2’s focus is on “community building” such as in homeowner’s associations and different neighborhoods and “crime prevention and safety.”

Available for attendees were free reflective vests, flashlights, and pepper sprays.

Absent from the meeting was Together for Resilient Youth (T.R.Y.), Founder, Wanda Boone.

The Sheriff’s Department, as part of their prescription drug “take-back” days in which the public could turn in unwanted medication at specified sites, will be present at PAC2’s meeting on March 12.  The Sheriff’s Department will provide a secure collection drop-box wherein community members can turn in unwanted medications anonymously.

6:04-6:05 p.m. (Ginger)
Debra Hawkins was nominated as PAC2 Treasurer.  The nomination was seconded and, subsequently, closed as Debra (who arrived shortly thereafter) was voted-in as the PAC2 Treasurer.

6:05-6:15 p.m. (Zion)
Ginger handed over the segment of Department Presentations/Citizen Concerns to Zion

Zion introduced the following speakers:

Durham Police Department – District Commander April Browne
Capt. Browne stated that due to time constraints, she planned to provide a brief presentation, however, if there were any questions or concerns, she could be reached via email at: (april.browne@durhamnc.gov)Capt. Browne reported “current crime trends” as follows:

1)  Robberies had a slight decrease for this 28 day period. (District 2 had 15 in the last 28 days compared to the previous 28 day total of 21). Please be aware of your surroundings and call police if you notice anything suspicious.

2)  District 2’s aggravated assaults saw a slight increase. (District 2 had 21 in the last 28 days compared to the previous 28 day total of 18.) We do not see any trends.

3)  Burglaries had a slight decrease for the district. Current 28 day total were 43 as compared to previous 28 day total of 49.

Capt. Browne mentioned a couple of things people should be aware of such as recent robberies near the North Pointe area (although a trend is not evident); businesses on Guess Road being broken into with either a rock or hammer (but not sure if it’s homeless folks or what’s going on or what they’re looking for); and a rise in theft of catalytic converters (a trend continuing from last month) targeting older model cars.  She also addressed the Maurice Beckwith case – “the reckless driver seen along Guess Road honking at folks, driving along side of people and taking their pictures.”  In closing, Capt. Browne said that Mr. Beckwith has been “careless and reckless in driving” and police units are aware of such.  In addition, she reported that Mr. Beckwith’s court date is set for February 13 and if people had time, they should go to court.  She strongly encouraged the community’s presence in court tomorrow (Feb.13) in order to demonstrate to the Assistant District Attorney and the judge the seriousness of this matter.

Captain Browne reported “notable arrests” as follows:

1)  Christopher Daniels – Charge(s):  Misdemeanor Breaking & Entering

2)  Timothy Burnette – Charge(s): Multiple Breaking & Entering Charge and Larceny after breaking & entering

3)  Willis Brown – Charge(s): Motor Vehicle Theft [Notes: Warrants still active]

Durham Parks and Recreation – Colleen Fear and Billy Price –
Colleen Fear, Recreation Manager, provided information on the following upcoming events:

1)  “Polar Plunge” @ Edison Johnson Aquatic Center, Saturday, February 17 (5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m.);

2)  “Spring Egg Dive” @ Campus Hills Pool, Saturday, March 10 (5:30 – 7:00 p.m.);

3)  “Calendar Events” featuring a free “Teen Initiative Program” @ Weaver Street Recreation Center and all 4 centers participating in the Program, Mondays thru Fridays (3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.);

4)  “Summer Camp” signup begins Monday, March 12; therefore, Sliding Fee Scale Waiver Applications should be submitted to assure the family’s name is in the system and ready during registration day.

Download the form at https://durhamnc.gov/DocumentCenter/View/4858.
Reference the PlayMore guide at all recreation centers or online @ DPRPlayMore.org.

Billy Price, Walltown Park Recreation Center, shared information on the following new programs:

1)  “Healthy Cooking for Adults” (ages 16 and up), April 3rd through 24th, every Tuesday night (6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.);

2)  “Glow In The Dark Dodgeball” (ages 16 and up), February 22nd, every Thursday night (6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m), cost $8.00; and

3)  “2nd Annual Mature Adult Prom” (ages 55 or better), Wednesday, May 9th (5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.).

City officials were acknowledged for the passage of new bus routes for teens 18 and younger to ride public buses for free.

Neighborhood Improvement Services (NIS) Department – Robin Dixon, Coordinator (Districts 2 & 5) –
Robin Dixon reported there were no updates at this time and provided copies of NIS’s newsletter.  Ms. Dixon was accompanied by Code Enforcement – Impact Team, Manager, Daryl Hedgspeth, and employees Lester Smith and Marcellus Morgan.

6:15-6:30 p.m. (Zion)
Pilar-Rocha Goldberg, CEO, El Centro Hispano, Inc. (ECH)
Pilar-Rocha Goldberg was accompanied by two members of her staff: Eliazar Posada, Community Engagement & Advocacy Manager; and Maria Luisa Solis, Community Outreach Coordinator.  Ms. Goldberg stated ECH’s mission is to strengthen the community, build bridges and advocate for equity and inclusion for Hispanics/Latinos in the Triangle Area of North Carolina.

ECH has four (4) core programs geared towards a holistic approach.  The programs include:

1)  Education

2)  Health

3)  Support Services

4)  Community Organizing

Eliazar Posada, Community Engagement & Advocacy, Manager, spoke about several components of the group.

1)  The STEM program

2)  The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program

Please visit ECH’s website at: https://www.elcentronc.org/

Joan Bass-Evans and Vanessa Evans of Braggtown were acknowledged for being awarded a grant funded in part by the City of Durham Neighborhood Matching Grants for Health (NMG-Heath) to build a Neighborhood Garden. Braggtown submitted a NMG-Health application to rebuild Dearborn Park and is working with appropriate officials to complete this goal.

[NOTE: Laura Biediger, NIS Program Manager, had previously indicated hopes of seeing more efforts to secure NMG-Health grants in District 2 as we have the lowest amount of organizations that submit proposals for such.]  

Prior to our meeting and upon announcing District Attorney Roger A. Echols’ as a presenter at PAC2’s February meeting, our group was inundated with questions for him and received positive feedback from people who expressed an interest in attending the meeting.  Attendees were encouraged to fill-out Comment Cards provided in their welcome package and to place them in the Comment Box.

District Attorney Roger A. Echols was introduced and Ginger facilitated the question and response portion of his presentation.

6:30-7:35 p.m. (Ginger)
DA Roger A. Echols, Durham County District Attorney’s Office
DA Echols briefly explained the role of District Attorney’s Office’s (DA’s Office).  DA Echols stated that his office is responsible for prosecuting every offense charged or at least making a decision on them in the district (i.e., Durham County).  DA Echols advised that a charge is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent  until and unless proven guilty.

Questions/concerns from the community were provided to DA Echols prior to the meeting.  DA Echols stated he could answer some questions to some degree; however, some questions may be beyond his scope of authority or expertise. To follow is a brief synopsis of questions presented to DA Echols:

1)   Maurice Antonio Beckwith (the aggressive driver). Please provide some background on the case against Mr. Beckwith.

[NOTE:  DA Echols waived in-depth comments on this question as it is an on-going case. Instead, he validated and referenced comments made by Capt. Browne stating the subject has been served and a court date is set for February 13.  He encouraged the community to attend the trial.]

2)   Explain the subpoena process for private citizens.

[NOTE: DA Echols distributed NC General Assembly Statue, Chapter 1A-1, Rule 45. Subpoena, in response to this question.  For more information, click or copy and paste the following hyperlink:  https://www.ncga.state.nc.us/enactedlegislation/statutes/html/bysection/chapter_

3)   What is being done to make sure people who remove or vandalize public property (such as statues they don’t agree with) are fully prosecuted and not let off?

4)   In Mayor Steve Schewels’ State of the City Address, he “praised two Durham congregations that have been providing sanctuary to two immigrants in the country illegally: Jose Chicas at John’s Missionary Baptist Church and the School for Conversion; and Samuel Oliver-Bruno at CityWell United Methodist Church.” Can the DA’s Office influence ICE in any way to cease and desist in rounding up members of the community who have not been able to obtain legal status?

5)   On average how many ICE holds does the DA’s Office get involved in?

6)   Would the DA’s Office be open to working with an organization such as El Centro Hispano on programs that would prevent ICE holds all together?

7)   When someone is in custody under state charges and ICE requests a hold on if and when they should post bond, is it obligatory on whomever has custody, for example the police or sheriff’s department, to actually hold them?

8)   Could you talk briefly about: 1) the number of cases the DA’s Office deals with a year; 2) the lack of prosecutors, and 3) how difficult it is to run the DA’s Office with the funding that you get from the state?

9)   Can you talk about how the DA’s Office works to treat drugs as a public health issue rather than a criminal issue?

10)  Do you believe that education, good economic development, and the availability of jobs can prevent crime? How can a DA’s Office promote this way of thinking?

11)  Referring to a previous appearance a year ago, you mentioned a problem with high turnover (e.g., prosecutors with less than 5 years experience) and the timeliness in getting things back from the state lab.  Have you seen an improvement in any of those areas?

12)  With regard to the incident in August 2017 wherein the KKK protested here in Durham, how was that allowed to happen?

There was a Q&A time period after each candidate’s presentation. Questions from the audience included, but were not limited to: the police department, grants, and code and housing enforcement, etc.

Notable Guests:

Marcia Morey, Representative, Democrat – District 30; and former Chief District Court Judge, Durham County Courthouse 
Representative Morey echoed DA Roger Echols’ statement with regard to what’s happening in Durham, in addition to a need for more funding and more DA’s allocated to Durham.  She commented:

Hey everyone, I’m Marcia Morey, the new Representative here, former judge (18) years, and I just want to echo what Roger’s saying about what’s happening, especially to Durham.  Mike you’re right, we need more funding.  We need more DA’s allocated to Durham, but also be aware that there’s a bill that’s going to possibly take away a judge in our district court bench if it’s passed maybe this week or probably in May. So they are trying to totally overturn the court system.  Durham has had 7 district court judges.  They work all the time.  Judge Battaglia is here.  We can’t afford to lose another judge and they are using these workload formulas that are totally inaccurate, they’re outdated; they don’t follow the national standards, but this is an agenda – a partisan agenda – to reshape and remap all of our courts.  So we’re working as hard as we can to make sure we keep at least our 7 district court judges.  The plan also removes one of our superior court judges out of Durham and puts it in another county.  So we’re really in a battle now with the court system and this goes right to: How do we best handle crime in our city?  So, we’re working really hard on it.  It’s a warfare of politics over there, but I just want to echo this is what’s happening and as much as you can speak out and let, especially the Republican party know how Durham cannot afford to lose another judge.  We need more resources in the DA’s Office and we got to keep partisanship out of our court systems.  Thank you.

Judge Fred S. Battaglia, Jr., District Court Judge, Durham County Courthouse
Judge Battaglia, Jr., spoke on the dwindling district and superior court judge seats in Durham.  Judge Battaglia stated this issue imposes a major problem as it “affects families.”  He encouraged people to write the Republican Party with regard to what’s happening in Durham district courts.  He commented:

Good evening. I’m your District Court judge.  I’m Fred Battaglia. I am one of the 7 that are left.  I wanted to mention one thing that Judge Morey said.  Before, we had two retired judges that would do domestic violence – two would rotate.  Those are taken from us already and so their proposal is to take another judge; and so that’s really a stoppage at where you work — take 25% of your workforce away; that would have a devastating effect.  I’m in domestic violence this week.  This morning the caseload was 38 cases – that’s from 9:30 to 1:00 and then from 2:00 to 5:00 I had 27.  When you put that into numbers you see that’s a lot of issues and I can’t comment on any of the cases – some of them are continued, etc. But the other thing I wanted to say is that we have drug treatment court and I am the judge for that.  And so I think that’s restorative in nature and it’s very fluid and we have people that have been battling drugs and alcohol for 40 some years in there and it’s a struggle and you know we’re not always successful, but the numbers are true.  For every dollar you spend on that, it returns back 27 to society.  Our folks work, they battle; we reunite family.  I invite you all to come to a graduation.  I think we have one March 9th, but call up to the courthouse and we’ll give you the date.  Come see what’s happening. Talk to your legislatures.  They are stripping the funding from our court system and it will affect families.  It’s affecting families every day in Durham.  Thank you.

[NOTE: For more information with regard to this topic, PAC2 suggest reading the following article in The News & Observer entitled, “A judge, a Vegas phone call and the NC GOP legislative effort to remake the judicial branch,” by Anne Blythe, dated August 22, 2017: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article168661047.html#storylink=cpy]

7:35-7:40 p.m.
Closing Comments (Ginger)

You can access more information by clicking on the hyperlinks below:

Parks and Rec Dept: You can find the Play More Magazine at:
http://durhamnc.gov/2786/Play-More or just log onto the Parks & Rec site at http://durhamnc.gov/753/Parks-Recreation and click “Play More” on the left – or browse through all the other tabs on that page for lots more information.

Durham Police Dept: Crime statistics and notable arrests are available for viewing at http://durhamnc.gov/719/Crime-Statistics, District 2 Commanders Update. ­

To see the PAC Newsletters from NISclick:
http://durhamnc.gov/570/Neighborhood-Improvement-Services or copy/paste into browser.

Remember that you can find LOTS of great information on the City  (http://durhamnc.gov/) and County (http://dconc.gov/) websites… be sure to check them out often!

Meeting was adjourned at approximately 7:40 pm.

(Minutes prepared 2/17 by Netty Chandler, Secretary. If you have corrections or comments, feel free to e-mail Ginger Blubaugh, co-facilitator directly at snaps494@yahoo.com)