Community Safety

The Community Safety Department (CSD) exists to bring people together – across agencies and neighborhoods – to reimagine what public safety can look like and what additional investments we can make to increase our shared sense of safety and security in Durham. The department will engage broadly, and through research and collaboration, to identify, implement, and evaluate new approaches to enhance public safety that may not involve a law enforcement response or the criminal justice system.

Learn More About Our Work

  1. Background
  2. Priorities
  3. New Approaches
  4. Collaboration
  5. Jobs

Why did the City of Durham create the new department?

Understanding Community Needs

The work that ultimately led to the creation of this new department began nearly a year ago. In August, at the request of the City Manager and in partnership with RTI International, the City launched an in-depth analysis of 911 calls for service data to help us understand the needs of residents and what types of resources could best address those needs. This work included:

  • Analysis of nearly 1 million calls that came into Durham between October 2017 and October 2020
  • A use of force analysis
  • A survey of and focus groups with Durham first responders including the Durham Police Department (DPD)
  • Research of other promising alternative response models occurring in cities across the country
  • View the results from this effort

Exploring New Approaches

Based on this analysis, evidence from other communities, and input from City Council, we identified some 911 call types where we believe, and find evidence in other cities, that we can best respond to the needs of residents by dispatching trained, unarmed responders that may include licensed clinical social workers and mental health clinicians paired with paramedics. These call types include:

  • Some calls involving mental or behavioral health needs
  • Minor traffic incidents
  • Quality of life issues
  • Calls for general assistance. 

Creation of the Community Safety Department

The need to advance this important work that aims to send the right response based on the need of residents, as well as to oversee the City Council’s recent investment of nearly $1 million in an expansion of Durham County’s violence interrupter program, led the City Manager to the conclusion that it was necessary to create a new department. 

Statement from City Manager Wanda Page about the creation of the Community Safety Department:

“One of the highest priorities areas we think about, and work on daily, is how best to keep our residents safe and well. It’s no secret that there is great concern about violent crime in Durham. At the same time, there is concern about the history of policing in our country and its impact on people of color. Right now, Durham has an opportunity to lead the way and find new, equitable, and innovative approaches to keep our community safe and well.   

The creation of this department reflects our belief that responding to the safety and wellness needs of all of our residents requires more than police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. Our first responders remain absolutely necessary and crucial to our public safety services moving forward. We still need policing to help protect our community. 

But, it’s unfair to expect them to address every single issue our residents experience. For example, to expect that - on top of everything they must do - they address mental and behavioral health needs or connect residents to social services to help them through a crisis. I’d like to note that many of our officers also support exploring other ways to address 911 calls that don’t need an officer response.

Meeting these sorts of diverse needs requires that we broaden our imagination of what public safety and first responders look like in Durham. I believe, as does the City Council, that creating this department is an important first step in that journey.”