Community Design

  • Are you interested in community organizing?
  • Have you or someone you know been affected by harm, violence, policing, or the criminal justice system?
  • Want to join a group to come up with real solutions to your community’s experiences with harm and violence?  


  • Must be a resident of East Durham
  • Compensation: $100 per session 
  • Commitment: March-December 2023
  • Ages 18-21 and people 50+
  • Able to meet monthly between 5-8pm on weekends
  • Childcare provided for meetings
  • Must be a resident of East Durham
  • We ESPECIALLY welcome Black, Brown, and People of Color (Latino/a/x)

About Us

Durham Beyond Policing’s commitment to abolition requires a deep belief in and reverence for people’s abilities to name our own problems and create our own solutions when provided the necessary resources. Through our Community Design work, we will create alternatives by asking the residents of Durham to call for what we really want and need. Along the way we will practice democratic participation and being in right relationship with each other. Ultimately we’ll join forces to shift power to the people. 

Our Process

Our Community Design project is based in the Critical Participatory Action Research (CPAR) framework. CPAR is an ethical choice that exposes and seeks to change existing power structures and inequalities within the community under study. It does so within a framework of smoothing out inequalities within the research structure.

We will roll out the Community Design Project within 4 Phases as followed:

  1. Planning
    • We will move through intensive planning to identify stakeholders, set intentions, brainstorm on which communities we desire to co-create with, and form our team, which will include a core committee of 25 Durham leaders, and Durham Beyond Policing membership and staff members who will help us shape our framework. We also identify desired outcomes in the process.
  2. Design
    • During this Phase, we begin to shape the container, making considerations around accessibility, volunteer capacity, and logistics support. 
  3. Engagement
    • We begin reaching out to our potential core committee of 25 Durham leaders, and having conversations. We will also begin doing outreach to Community Researchers, based on which communities are most impacted by gun violence and policing in our city.
    • We hold focus groups to begin understanding what critical needs residents of those communities are experiencing, and what they need/want to feel safer.
    • We will listen and learn about what our city’s collective needs are, and co-design a significant alternative to policing, and transform our culture of safety and accountability in Durham.
  4. Action
    • The best and most successful model will come from community deliberation and visioning of what will keep us all safe. We will work with members to build public consensus for the project we will create, particularly within our own communities— specifically, Black, Brown, immigrant, poor and working class, youth, elders, people with disabilities, LGBTQ*, women, trans, and gender nonconforming people. We will listen and learn about what our city’s collective needs are, and co-design a significant alternative to policing, and transform our culture of safety and accountability in Durham.

Contact Us

Want to get involved? Still have questions? Contact Us!

Email us at:

Shotspotter Fact Sheet

Since his run for office in 2017 Mayor Pro Temp Mark-Anthony Middleton has advocated for Durham to adopt ShotSpotter technology, yet another costly means of marking gun violence in Durham after it has already occurred. At the same time Councilmember Middleton has vocally opposed and voted against our community-rooted organizations’ attempts to request municipal investment toward preventative solutions or to push back against the gun violence enacted by the police in our neighborhoods.

ShotSpotter offered Durham a free six-month trial of its gunshot-detection system and Councilmember Middleton wanted our City Council to “… take that deal” (N&O, August 6, 2020) by installing sensors, basically sensitive microphones, around Durham neighborhoods to pick up sounds from the street that might be gunfire, and using the sensors to locate where the shots were fired, then sending the information to the Durham Police Department (this description of how Shotspotter’s Flex tech works from NY Times, March 17, 2015). The “deal”, it turned out, would be expensive and ineffective. 

  1. ShotSpotter costs $65,000 to $90,000 per square mile per year, with an additional $10,000 per square mile one-time initiation fee according to their own website. The Shotspotter Flex microphones will automatically call the police to a scene when activated by sounds resembling gunshots, but is that a good thing? The arrival of armed law enforcement officers often heightens danger in situations that could be better addressed by experts in de-escalation. ShotSpotter is roaming the country trying to find cities to buy their product, and it is no surprise that they are offering a free trial gimmick. 
  1. Despite ShotSpotter corporation’s aggressive resistance to transparency, in 2016 a Forbes tech reporter obtained ShotSpotter data directly from customer cities and learned that authorities dispatched by a ShotSpotter alert were many times unable to find evidence of gunshots. “When combined with police dispatch records that show what happened when officers responded to the alerts, a clear pattern emerges: lots of calls, but few tangible results. Of the thousands of ShotSpotter alerts in these cities, police were unable to find evidence of gunshots between 30%-70% of the time.” 
  1. “It’s true that using ShotSpotter has led to arrests, including some where a ‘smoking gun’ isn’t a cliche, but an actual description of a crime scene. Police dispatch records show that these instances are exceedingly rare, however, amounting to about one percent of all calls. Many cities that pay for the technology thinking they will catch criminals in the act end up disappointed as a result.” “While officers are responding to more illegal gunfire, they rarely catch the shooter. And evidence that could be used to build a case and bolster a prosecution–such as shell casings left behind or witness testimony–isn’t often attributed to ShotSpotter in police or court records. The question now is whether the technology is worth the millions of dollars it’s costing taxpayers each year…”
  1. It is wrong and misleading to tell Durham neighborhoods reeling with grief as a result of gun violence that ShotSpotter technology will offer solutions. ShotSpotter technology, when functioning correctly, will call the police department (with or without the consent of the people present) and at very best the police will then use a combination of restraints and weapons to propel the person into a carceral system that has been proven to cause long-term harm to people and their families and communities.
  2. Durham residents deserve structural change and proven, proactive, and preventative solutions to the violence in our communities. We deserve responsible stewardship of our public resources. There are policing proponents who would look at the multitude of problems with Shotspotter and propose that we use the money to instead hire additional police officers, buy more surveillance cameras, and approve any request from the police department without inquiry or debate (so different from how requests are interrogated for city worker pay, public housing, youth programs, workforce development, eviction diversion, neighborhood improvement, or parks and recreation, for example). But incidents of gun threats and gun violence aren’t just happening inside communities, they are happening to communities– at the hands of the police. Durham police officers have gone so far as to use firearms to threaten children. The time is long overdue to turn towards more visionary planning and investment.
  1. Describing ShotSpotter technology as a means to curb gun violence feels like another attempt to undermine the work of community-members who fought to build an alternative to policing and surveillance in Durham through the Durham Community Safety & Wellness Task Force joint effort across City, County, and Durham Public Schools. We need alternatives that actually address the root causes of why violence and criminalized acts happen to begin with: unattended mental health crisis, poverty, housing instability, and untreated substance addiction. We’re interested in solutions that prioritize the holistic health of our people, and help us build towards keeping each other safe, through de-escalation and transformative interventions. Our elected and appointed officials should use our city’s resources towards results-driven solutions that move us toward trusting each other and not fear.
  1. Approving the “free trial” version of ShotSpotter would be an overwhelmingly regressive move, and would in fact, still cost our residents their safety and security. The paid version of the technology proposed for 3 square miles in East Durham in 2017 would have cost $235,000 (IndyWeek article, January 2020? 2019?). That same funding could be used over those same three square miles towards meeting the needs of those residents. The residents of those 3 square miles deserve a say in solutions that would prevent violence in the first place.
  1. Because the tech is expensive most cities limit the ShotSpotter sensors to a particular geographic zone, and because of structural racism over many decades, that zone is invariably a Black/ Brown neighborhood. Unless you are Charlotte and you purchased the tech with grant money in preparation for the DNC, in which case the ShotSpotter installation went downtown. When Charlotte, NC ended a contract with ShotSpotter in 2016, the Charlotte Observer reported that the memo from their City Manager and Council concluded: “…Based on its experience with the system, CMPD feels the return on investment was not high enough to justify a renewal.” We’ve seen Shotspotter implemented in Charlotte, NC, and it was so ineffective and costly that the city chose to not renew the contract. Durham has an opportunity to learn from that here.
  2. Chicago’s Office of the Inspector-General analyzed more than a year’s worth of Chicago Shotspotter data and concluded that Chicago Police Department responses to ShotSpotter alerts can seldom be shown to lead to investigatory stops which might have investigative value and rarely produce evidence of a gun-related crime. Additionally, OIG identified evidence that the introduction of ShotSpotter technology in Chicago has changed the way some CPD members perceive and interact with individuals present in areas where ShotSpotter alerts are frequent. Specifically, OIG reviewed instances in which CPD members rely, at least in part, on a perceived aggregate frequency of ShotSpotter alerts in an area to form the basis for an investigatory stop or as part of the rationale for a pat down once a stop has been initiated. Additionally, better data on law enforcement outcomes from ShotSpotter alerts would be valuable to support the City’s future assessments of whether to extend, amend, or discontinue its contractual relationship with ShotSpotter.

    “Our study of ShotSpotter data is not about technological accuracy, it’s about operational value,” said Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety Deborah Witzburg. “If the Department is to continue to invest in technology which sends CPD members into potentially dangerous situations with little information––and about which there are important community concerns–– it should be able to demonstrate the benefit of its use in combating violent crime. The data we analyzed plainly doesn’t do that. Meanwhile, the very presence of this technology is changing the way CPD members interact with members of Chicago’s communities. We hope that this analysis will equip stakeholders to make well-informed decisions about the ongoing use of ShotSpotter technology.”
  3. ACLU: Four Problems with the ShotSpotter Gunshot Detection System
  4. ShotSpotter system summoned police to the scene and resulted in them killing 13-year old Adam Toledo in Chicago in March, 2021.
  5. There have been concerns about ShotSpotter corporation altering data in collaboration with police.
  6. According to data from the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications: 89% of ShotSpotter deployments in Chicago turned up no gun-related incident at all, and less than 5% of ShotSpotter alerts led police to a shooting or attempted shooting. The vast majority of shootings are also called in through 9-1-1 by residents. 86% of ShotSpotter deployments don’t produce any kind of police incident report, and there are more than 20,000 dead-end ShotSpotter deployments every year. On an average day in Chicago, there are more than 61 ShotSpotter-initiated police deployments that turn up no evidence of any crime, let alone gun crime.

“The groups say a study of Chicago police data found that over a nearly 22-month period ending in mid-April, almost 90% of ShotSpotter alerts didn’t result in officers reporting evidence of shots fired or of any gun crime. The technology is only used in 12 police districts with the city’s largest proportion of Black and Latino residents, which the groups say “inflates statistics about supposed gunfire in these communities, creating a faulty, tech-based justification for ever more aggressive policing.”

“These deployments create an extremely dangerous situation for residents, prompting unnecessary and hostile police encounters, and creating the conditions for abusive police tactics that have plagued Chicago for decades,” the groups wrote.

ShotSpotter, a California based company that produces the gunshot detection system, has contracts with over 100 police departments nationwide. In Chicago, it sent an average of 71.4 alerts to officers each day during the period studied, according to the court filing. That included the March 29 alert that led to the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo by a Chicago officer.”


“The court filing tells a different story: one of a system that prompts officers to race to scenes where they think they may encounter armed suspects and are thus more inclined to use lethal force. It says the ShotSpotter system — which the business says detects gunshots with “97% accuracy” — sent Chicago officers on an average of 61 “dead end” searches per day, possibly because it doesn’t accurately distinguish between shots and other loud noises, such as firecrackers and backfiring cars.

But the number of “dead end” searches does not address a reality in Chicago: People who fire guns often run away or, especially in a city where drive-by shootings are routine, gunmen are often blocks and even miles away by the time police arrive.

The system is especially dangerous in Chicago, according to the filing, because of the police department’s decades-long reputation for using unnecessary force.

“Residents who happen to be in the vicinity of a false alert will be regarded as presumptive threats, likely to be targeted by police for investigatory stops, foot pursuits, or worse,” the filing says.”

-PBS NewsHour, May 2021,

DBP 2021 Voter Guide

Durham Beyond Policing members have earned major wins this year, including the launch of the Community Safety and Wellness Task Force, the creation of the new Department of Community Safety, and the 10 to Transform Campaign collaboration with Durham for All.

Our position is clear — increasing police forces in our most vulnerable and under-resourced neighborhoods will not make us safer. The time for us to create the conditions for our collective safety and thriving is now. Early voting is underway, until October 30, and the municipal election is November 2. Please vote, and bring your people to the polls with you. 
We believe in electing people who will work to sustain the gains we have made and move our city towards a future where safety is defined as conditions that allow all of us to live and thrive. We work for transformative justice and accountability. While we cannot endorse any candidate in Durham’s municipal election, we created a voter guide to present each candidate’s position on community safety in Durham, and for incumbents, to summarize how they have voted on recent decisions relatedto community safety. 

Please share widely within your Bull City networks!

Visit for info on how to get your vote on.

#10ToTransform Statement on the County Budget 21-22

Congratulations for your part in building toward the Durham we all deserve during this year’s municipal budgeting process! You and about 1500 of our Bull City neighbors were active participants in the 10 to Transform campaign with Durham Beyond Policing Coalition and Durham For All. Most of us have never had a say in our unjust economic system but we dove right in and we learned together during this budget cycle. Let’s celebrate at the 10 to Transform cookout on Sunday, June 27, 2021 from 4-6pm (location soon, please wear mask). Friends and families abundantly welcome.

Our goal for Durham County was to divest 10% from the County budget for jails and policing and invest it into mental healthcare. Last night, Monday, June 14, 2021 was the County Commissioners vote (and next Monday, June 21st will be the City Council vote). The five County Commissioners voted to pass the Fiscal Year 2021-2022 budget last night and we are so proud of how your hard work throughout the 10 to Transform campaign was reflected in the outcome.

Your advocacy pushed the Board of County Commissioners to unanimously agree to increase spending on mental health, a line item that has stagnated for years, through a million dollar investment in mental health services.

You raised critical questions, finally bringing the Sheriff into a transparent conversation about his budget that he has avoided for so long. We see this as groundwork for reduction of the harms of the jail and policing, though we didn’t see the reallocation of 48 vacancies from the Sheriff’s department and jail to expand mental healthcare access to Durham residents that we hoped for.

In the final stretches, Sheriff Birkhead waged a serious counter-organizing campaign against the 10 to Transform campaign. His office wielded the full weight of his positional power to dismiss our lived experiences, misrepresented our campaign aims in media outlets, flexed his connections with colleagues writing on their powerful institutions’ letterheads on the Sheriff’s department’s behalf (he sent these letters to us), all while spending public resources generated through our collective labor.

His efforts cannot erase our participation or undo the truth. We still urgently need to disentangle the criminal legal system from mental healthcare. We still need the existing mental healthcare systems to be bolstered further. We still need new programs and services to provide the additional capacity necessary to shift completely away from the jail and get us all the care we need after an incredibly challenging year. There is a long journey ahead until we’re all free and our families and communities are reunited.

In this budget cycle your work on the 10 to Transform campaign laid the foundation for action from the Board of County Commissioners. Over the next six months they have committed to a study of the County’s crisis response system and County 911 calls and mapping of existing resources and gaps. We’ll organize toward greater progress when they revisit the question of divesting from policing and investing in mental health and wellness in January or February, 2022.  

The County Commissioners missed the present opportunity to decrease encounters with armed law enforcement or reallocate positions from the jail and increase access to mental health emergency response and public health. But the budget they approved last night has many other progressive investments that will make a big difference in strengthening and stabilizing our communities. Victories we’re celebrating in this year’s County budget include: the biggest investment we’ve ever seen in Durham Public Schools, including a massive Durham Association of Educators victory– school nurses and counselors for every school (first step towards a rollout over the next three years); the immigrant and refugee service coordinator position (jointly funded, City and County); the tax assistance grant program; Durham PreK expansion; workforce training initiatives through Durham Tech (including funding for stipends and social support for students); two additional positions for Racial Equity work, and an expansion of the Bull City United peer-to-peer violence interrupters outreach program.

Though Durham didn’t receive everything we hoped for, together we made serious gains that would not have been possible without joining forces. Through you volunteering in phone banking, we had over 700 conversations with Black people and people of color in Durham. Of those, over 70% supported the demands of the 10 to Transform Campaign at the end of the conversation. Your signatures on our letters made a difference– we were able to meet with City and County officials and share that we had 1,181 signatures calling for divestment from policing and investment in mental health and compassionate crisis response. Whether you spoke truth to power at public hearings, submitted written public comments, or showed up for public events (campaign kick off on April 27th and town hall with County and City electeds on May 20th) your contribution showed our collective strength and named our shared vision. 

For years, Durham Beyond Policing and Durham For All have been in deep conversations with thousands of Black and POC residents of Durham, over the phone or at our neighbors’ doors. The 10 to Transform campaign grew out of these conversations with Durham residents, particularly Black and POC communities, who are tired of living in fear. We are invested in and committed to building a movement that fights for our collective liberation and everyone’s undeniable right to safety, care, and belonging.

During the 10 to Transform campaign, in our conversations with electeds we heard loud and clear that fear of rising gun violence in Durham is preventing some of them from feeling enthusiastic towards building alternatives to policing. We mourn and grieve devastating deaths due to gun violence in our communities. We take this grief seriously and rely on existing research and evidence in addressing such an important issue. The myth that the uptick in crime or gun violence can be addressed by increased policing runs counter to the evidence:  Laura Cooper, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which represents police executives in the U.S. and Canada and compiles data across member cities, shared with The Daily Beast that their data shows violent crime increased in the first quarter of 2021, regardless of whether cities increased or decreased their police budgets.

Police and sheriff’s deputies do not prevent harm from occurring. While jails provide punishment and isolation from communities, they do not deter criminalized behavior. As put forth by crime experts at the University of Chicago and New York University, community institutions and care workers, such as public schools, libraries, recreation centers, social workers and therapists, are all associated with deterring criminalized behavior.

According to the Durham County Crisis Intervention Team, people suffering from mental health struggles often end up staying in Durham County Jail longer and more frequently than others.  During a recent work session, Sheriff Birkhead described himself as Durham’s greatest mental health provider. If true, this is our collective failure. Therapeutic support and mental health crisis intervention must be available for Durham residents to access by calling mobile mental health care providers and gaining access to non-jailing facilities, rather than by calling the police or sheriff. We all deserve free or minimal cost access to high-quality mental healthcare as well as access to ongoing therapy and counseling in places that are safe and promote wellness, not punishment and disposability. 

The most recent movement to divest from policing and invest in community care in Durham is now five years old. Every year since 2016, we have come forward to local governments with petitions, proposals, public comments and large-scale support for funding the institutions and resources that have a direct connection to public safety and wellness. We’ve made important strides together. We’ve established a Community Safety and Wellness Task Force connecting the city, county, and the public schools. We now have a Department of Safety and Wellness in our City government. We have increased investments in eviction diversion and ensured living wages for all city workers. The pandemic demonstrated more than anything the importance of mutual aid, mental healthcare, and care work to keep people alive and safe. We are asking you to help us build safety based on the model of our community institutions, not policing and jails. 

We will continue listening to and inviting in poor and working class, Black and POC communities of Durham, honoring all the nuance, complexities, and beauty that our communities hold. As members of groups and organizations that supported and endorsed the Sheriff based on his progressive visions during his campaign, we will continue demanding transparency and justice.

Let’s keep up the good work! Save the date for the 10 to Transform cookout celebration on Sunday, June 27, 2021 from 4-6pm. To stay involved in future work with Durham For All, please  become a member or join our email list. To stay involved in future work with Durham Beyond Policing, please become a member, sign up to receive our newsletter, follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, or make a donation to sustain the work

Until we all get free,

AJ, Danielle, and Manju on behalf of Durham Beyond Policing coalition

Kaji, Nahid, Ociele, Shanise, and Anthony on behalf of Durham For All