Cost of crime: Durham gun violence costing victims’ families, taxpayers thousands of dollars a year

North Carolina

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Ronda Watson woke up to a phone call at 2 a.m. on a Sunday last September. On the other end of the line was her brother-in-law, who had called to tell her that her son had been hurt in a shooting.

“He said Otha had been shot,” Watson said.

“I’m saying ‘OK, maybe he got shot in the arm, or the leg,'” Watson said.

But when Watson got to the hospital, she found out her 26-year-old son had been shot in the head.

“When she told me he had been shot in the head, I lost it,” Watson said. “There wasn’t anything they could do for him.

“I’m seeing my baby laying there and I wanted to switch places with him. I wanted him to get up, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen.”

Ronda Watson

“All I could do was pray, and I told him, “It’s OK, Mommy’s going to be fine.”

Eight months after losing her son, the pain is still fresh, and the bills are piling up for Watson’s family.

“I have to come out of my pocket to pay for therapy,” Watson said.

Watson spends hundreds of dollars a month on counseling for herself. She’s also worried about the bills she could still receive from the hospital after her son’s death.

“I hope I don’t have to receive a medical bill from the hospital because I don’t want to think about what it would cost to make my baby comfortable in those last minutes,” Watson said.

Otha Ray Watson is one of 318 people who were shot in 2020 in Durham, where the city saw a 40 percent increase in people who had been shot compared to 2019 when 189 people were shot.

Deadly shootings are almost double what they were this time last year. While shooting incidents are down, Durham is still seeing an average of two shooting incidents per day. Data from Durham Police Department.

There was a total of 966 shooting incidents in 2020, which was a 30 percent increase from 2019 where the city had 652 shooting incidents.

So far this year, shooting incidents in Durham are slightly down from last year, but the city is still averaging about two per day.

Since Jan. 1, there have been 250 shooting incidents in Durham. In 2020, there had been 270 shooting incidents.

The number of people shot is about the same, as 84 have been shot this year and last year 80 people were shot at this time.

In 2020, the City of Durham saw a record number of shooting incidents and a record number of people shot. Last year, there was a 40 percent increase in people who had been shot in Durham compared to 2019. Data from Durham Police Department.

Both Duke University Hospital and Duke Regional Hospital have seen a rise in gunshot wounds over the last year. In total, the two hospitals have treated 290 gunshot wound victims from July 2020 through April 2021.

Hospital officials said that’s a 16-percent increase compared to last fiscal year’s total of 250 gunshot wound victims.

Duke Health officials told CBS 17 in an email that the majority of the patients are not insured or are on Medicaid.

Gunshot wound victims treated at Duke University Hospital and Duke Regional Hospital from July 2017 through April 2021. Duke hospitals have treated 1,011 gunshot wounds in total. Data from Duke Health.

“When you’re talking about violent crime in particular, you’re talking about an enormous cost to taxpayers,” said Leonard Sipes, founder of CrimeinAmerca.net.

As a former law enforcement officer and government spokesman, Sipes said not only is crime costing the families of victims, but its costing everyone who lives in the city.

When you factor in the costs of police response, hospital stays, court fees, and the incarceration of suspects, a recent study by MoneyGeek found crime costs the average taxpayer in Durham $2,407 a year.

The study also looked at neighboring cities with lower crime rates.

In Raleigh, crime is costing taxpayers $531 a year, which is about a fifth of what people in Durham are paying.

In Cary, a city with one of the lowest crime rates in the state, crime is only costing taxpayers there $185 a year.

Sipes said he is concerned about the long-term economic impact the cost of crime could have on the city of Durham.

“Crime literally can destroy cities, and it has destroyed cities over time,” Sipes said. “When Durham starts losing jobs, and when Durham starts losing prosperity, there’s a certain point where somebody says to themselves ‘we really have to address this, we really have to take this seriously.'”

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