Letters to the Editor

Letters: Overzealous gang reform feeds school-to-prison pipeline

The City of Durham’s Impact Team spends each day cleaning up gang markings and other graffiti around the city.
The City of Durham’s Impact Team spends each day cleaning up gang markings and other graffiti around the city. Scott Lewis

Gang reform overreach

Regarding the news story “2 men charged in Durham shooting have ties to Crips gang, drugs and another killing” (Nov. 30):

The article stated “About 20 percent of court-involved juveniles in Durham are gang members or associates, compared with roughly 7 percent statewide, according to court counselors.”

I am worried this statistic is cited from NC GangNET, a statewide database that tracks “gang members” with little oversight and major due process concerns.

GangNET is integral to the School-to-Prison Pipeline and must be reformed. To be entered into GangNET, a person need only meet two of ten criteria. Each criterion is vague and extremely subjective. For example, teenagers can be considered gang members if they are seen using the “style of dress associated with a criminal gang” and “adopt the language or terminology” associated with that gang.

Such broad criteria place enormous power with individual officers to define which characteristics, mannerisms, and personal appearance choices are indicative of gang association rather than indicia of one’s neighborhood and/or subculture. This opens the door to implicit biases and human error, which are compounded for youth who are entered into their system by their school resource officers.

According to a joint publication by the N.C. Center for Safer Schools and N.C Department of Public Safety, SROs “work independently, with little to no supervision.” Despite these concerns, GangNET entrants receive zero notification, have no right to decline having their personal information entered, and have no formal process to appeal their entry. Nonetheless, GangNET is used to prioritize prosecutions and justify suspensions. Gang reform called for in the article should never come at the expense of children’s rights.

Hannah Wyatt

The writer is a J.D. Candidate at Duke University School of Law.

City too welcoming

Regarding the news story “2 men charged in Durham shooting have ties to Crips gang, drugs and another killing” (Nov. 30):

Tell them to come on in to our great city where our mayor and city council welcome all, according to another story in that day’s paper. My understanding of the word “all” means any illegal immigrants, murderers, those accused of domestic violence, drug dealers, active gangsters etc.

What in the world has happened to the city of Durham, that I used to know during my 80-plus years of living here, that I was once so proud of? What a shame!

Albert Long


Anti-Semitism right and left

Regarding the guest column “Anti-Semitic attack perpetuates white supremacist violence in the U.S.” (Nov. 21):

It’s convenient that the “Demilitarize Durham2Palestine” group believes “it is necessary to situate anti-Semitism in the context of white supremacy.” So, why do they find this “necessary”? It’s “necessary” so that they can hide their own anti-Semitism by pointing the finger at someone else.

The D2P group was behind the petition that claimed “these tactics further militarize U.S. police forces that train in Israel, and this training helps the police terrorize Black and Brown communities here in the U.S. Additionally, such practices erode our constitutional rights to due process, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly.”

Seriously? Do they have evidence that training with Israel does all of those terrible things? No, they have no such evidence, but it didn’t stop them from spreading their fear mongering all over Durham. Evidently the D2P group frightened enough people into signing their petition, which the Durham City Council supported.

There is no doubt that racial discrimination in policing is a significant problem in this country. However, to blame training in Israel for this problem is anti-Semitic. According to the U.S. State Department definition of anti-Semitism — approved under Barak Obama in 2016 — manifestations of anti-Semitism include blaming Jews for “why things go wrong.” It also includes “the targeting of the state of Israel” or “requiring of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

D2P and the City Council did not evaluate other countries that train with American police, rather they singled out and discriminated against Israel. What is behind their irrational obsession against Israel?

As Rabbi Lord Sacks says, “one of the enduring facts of history is that most anti-Semites do not think of themselves as anti-Semites”. It’s time for the D2P group to stop pointing the antisemitism finger at others and look in the mirror.

A.J. Rosenthal

Chapel Hill

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