DURHAM -- Dodging bullets and post traumatic stress disorder -- Ashley Canaday is not near a battlefield, but used those words to describe what she says is the norm in her neighborhood.
Canaday lives in McDougald Terrace, where she is president of the resident council.
“Living in MacDougald -- I’ve been there 10 years, and the first few years that I was there it was OK,” she told members of Durham’s Human Relations Commission in late February. “Now it’s just a war zone.”
Prior to the Nov. 22 officer-involved shooting that left Frank “Scooter Bug” Clark, 34, dead at the complex, Canaday said it seemed crime at McDougald came from non-residents.
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However she said the McDougald community is now “cutting up,” too.
“Our community is going through a lot,” she said. “Our community is suffering.”
Kids suffer from PTSD, take pills to sleep and can’t play in the park, she said.
“They can’t walk home from school (and) ride the school buses so they so don’t get hit by bullets,” Canady said.
Fights seem to break out every day on the street corner, she said.
The basketball court is vandalized, windows are broken and shots fired -- Canady thinks those crimes occur because there’s nothing to do in the community after 6 p.m.
Nobody wants to deliver food. Buildings are abandoned and churches are leaving, she said.
Canady doesn’t know where the closest grocery store is, other than corner stores that sell milk for $6.99, bread for $2.99 or bacon for $7.50.
Parents are afraid to work because they can’t “afford having kids running around the streets,” she said.
“We don’t ever want to ever get that phone call that while you’re at work my child is dead,” Canady said.
In the five-week period that followed Clark’s death -- Nov. 27 through Dec. 31 in District 4 which includes McDougald -- two homicides were reported along with four rapes, 24 robberies, 38 aggravated assaults, 84 burglaries, 177 reports of larceny and 17 motor vehicle thefts.
In the five-week period prior to and including Clark’s death -- Oct. 23 to Nov. 26 -- there were two homicides, two rapes, 21 robberies, 41 aggravated assaults, 59 burglaries, 163 reports of larceny and 19 motor vehicle thefts.
There have been 14 reports of shots fired since November, said Capt. Daniel Edwards, commander of District 4.
Though residents are split on wanting more of a police presence, Canady said she and other parents want police to do their jobs.
“Protect these kids,” she said.
Listening to others in the community, she said she thinks there needs to be a change in policing at McDougald.
“If I see a car come up the street 100 miles per hour, I’m not waiting for you to announce Durham PD -- I live in McDougald,” Canady said. “I’m running, too, and I don’t have nothing on me.”
Another matter she said is the way some officers talk to men walking to the store.
“If you approach me, ‘What’s up dawg?” I’m going to be like, hold up,” Canady said. “So that’s a lot of reason why the community has a problem with the police department -- the communication. Some officers are good, but you’ve got some officers that (aren’t).”
Since Chief Cerelyn “C.J." Davis’ meeting with McDougald residents in November, Edwards said a representative of the department meets with residents each week.
“It’s just a matter of hearing everything getting a big picture of understanding the concerns from management down to residents and also talking to kids figuring out what they want,” he said.
Another outreach is lunch in the community each Tuesday, and working to teach residents fundamental things like tying a tie.
“Or provide examples of how to de-escalate violent situations without having to resort to violence,” Edwards said.
Officers are also encouraged to introduce themselves by first name to at least three people each day in an attempt to "get beyond the badge," and create better relations, he said.
TAKING IT BACK
In the meantime, it’s parents -- moms specifically -- who want to take back their neighborhood and give it hope.
Canady is one of six moms who graduated from a program earlier in February to craft a plan.
She is starting by challenging others to walk in the the community for a day.
“Crime may not happen. Crime may happen, but you never know unless you’re there,” she said.
The moms are evaluating an after-school program past 6 p.m., bringing a lunch program to the community during school breaks, and on a more personal note, Canady has started a community garden in the past.
The moms are also asking the Durham Housing Authority for help, starting with weekend and longer hours at the nearby T.A. Grady Recreation Center.
Members of Durham’s Humans Relations Commission unanimously approved a resolution in February, seeking support to expand the hours of the center.
The Durham Housing Authority has a lease with the city for the T.A. Grady Center, which operates youth programs from 3 to 6 p.m. after school, said Anthony Scott, DHA chief executive officer.
There’s a wide variety of programs offered by the housing authority -- from youth programs to adult-related, Scott said.
However he said there is a funding issue for some programs, which is not just a DHA-specific problem.
“The housing authority funding for resident services and activities is just not there from (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,” Scott said. “It’s not just a Durham Housing Authority issue -- every housing authority around the country is down on funding.”
Still, DHA is looking to see what it can do to seek outside funding and partnerships to provide programs.
For Canady, it’s about bringing hope to McDougald.