By Virginia Bridges
Durham County Commissioners Chairman Michael Page has endorsed Mayor Bill Bell's call for higher bails for people accused of gun crimes.
Page said today he didn't specifically cite the $300,000 bail amount in his state of the county speech this week because local officials are discussing it and figuring out next steps.
But he said does support Bell's proposal, which would increase bail for those accused of illegally firing a gun from the current $75,000 maximum amount.
"If it works, I support it," Page said.
In his speech Monday night, Page said the Sheriff’s Office reported a 12 percent drop in crime in the unincorporated area of Durham County in 2011, but "the fact remains that our overall community continues to wage an unending battle against too many injuries and deaths caused by firearms.”
In addition to higher bail, Page said another goal is asking the General Assembly for harsher penalties for people convicted of gun-related offenses.
The Sheriff’s Office is working with the Durham Police Department to reduce criminal activity in Northeast Central Durham and collaborating with federal officers to target criminals who are selling or distributing guns illegally, which has resulted in several recent arrests and the seizure of weapons, Page said. Sheriff Mike Andrews is also exploring starting a juvenile-based program to address gun violence, Page said.
"Certainly, we are bringing a multi-pronged approach to this critical issue," Page said. "Our residents must feel safe, and all of us must work together to significantly reduce gun crimes in Durham."
Look for more from this week's Durham County commissioners meeting coming Sunday in The Durham News.