60% of jobs in Durham required a driver’s license, but many residents had revoked licenses for minor moving violations or unpaid traffic tickets.
The Durham Expunction and Restoration (DEAR) program has dismissed over 100,000 traffic charges and offered $2.7 million in debt relief, helping tens of thousands of residents.
DEAR has become proof of concept for data-led innovation and the power of bringing together “financial justice and racial equity”.
The innovation team’s data, paired with residents’ stories of stress and pain, ultimately led to the 2017 launch of the Durham Expunction and Restoration (DEAR) program. It brings city and court system staff together with community members to restore driver’s licenses and remove systemic barriers individuals face while trying to provide for themselves and their families. To date, the program has successfully dismissed over 100,000 traffic charges and offered $2.7 million in debt relief, helping tens of thousands of residents.
It’s a prime example of how a collaborative effort targeting a specific problem — and a commitment to foundational data-driven practices such as evaluations — can transform the lives of individual residents.
After the listening sessions and data analysis, the first thing Smith and his team did was meet with the local district attorney (DA) to share what they had learned. It turned out that the DA’s office had previously held an amnesty event to dismiss old charges related to driver’s license suspensions, but that turnout had been poor.
Once again, stakeholder outreach with formerly incarcerated residents proved valuable: During listening sessions, Smith and his colleagues learned that residents were distrustful of the courthouse and were not inclined to come spend a day in line without any guarantee of relief or assistance.