I’ve read recently that Durham Mayor Bill Bell and Durham County Commissioners Chairman Michael Page both support increasing bonds for people charged with gun violence as a way to reduce violence in Durham. These recurring suggestions that “getting tough on crime” and increasing punishment will deter crime are out of touch with the causes of crime in our community. Political leaders serious about reducing crime should be talking about living wage jobs programs, counseling, education, training, and intensive mentorship programs. Our local “criminals” are mostly kids who have been abandoned by their families and by our community. They have been abused and mistreated since birth, and do not believe a bright, legitimate future is possible for them. They cannot imagine anything but the streets. They are prisoners of their own opinions of themselves. We have failed to believe in them, invest in them, support them, and help them imagine a better life. They decide very early in life, probably as juveniles, that if they can’t have the American dream, they don’t want it. It is easier to be angry than disappointed. When they commit crimes they do not sit down, weigh the consequences, and then decide against crime because of a high bond or incarceration. Jail is a cost of doing business in the street, and is expected. Incarceration has ceased to be a deterrent. These kids need safety, love, counseling and support instead of suspension from school or incarceration in jail. They cannot imagine a job that pays a living wage, a checking account, a safe and regular place to stay. There is no one in their lives committed to showing them how to journey in that direction.
Meaningful regulation of guns would help reduce gun violence. People who should not be able to get guns can get them lawfully at gun shows or off the streets. Guns circulate our streets like bad pennies. We should regulate guns at least as much as we regulate cars – requiring title, registration, license, insurance, and an operation test. The transfer of guns from one person to another should be strictly monitored and followed by the State Attorney General’s office.
Increasing bonds won’t make our safe. Bonds are for people who are presumed to be innocent, and often are. There are a massive fleets of illegal guns floating around Durham, and for every one kid in jail, there are two ready to take their place on the street with the gun. Durham Police ship “gun pools” seized from the street each week to the State Bureau of Investigation to enter into a national database. Locking these kids up is treating a gushing wound with a band aid, treating symptoms and not the causes. If we are serious about making our community safer, we should fund intensive living wage jobs programs, provide addiction counseling, community support, and mentor programs to help these young people imagine a life better than the street.