Chief reports 6 percent drop in crime
Through the first six months of the year, major crime in Durham was down 6 percent compared to the numbers from the same point in 2012, Police Chief Jose Lopez told the City Council.
The drop means that the types of crime local and federal authorities track most closely were “at a 15-year low,” Lopez said in his quarterly report to elected officials.
Violent crime was down 9 percent, thanks to a fall in aggravated assaults the chief credited in part to the department’s tactics for dealing with the threat of “retaliatory” violence after an incident, he said.
Property crime, meanwhile, was down 5 percent through June 30, keyed by a decline in the number of burglaries. Lopez said the “residential awareness program” police launched in 2011 to combat neighborhood-level outbreaks has contributed to the drop.
The department in compiling the statistics tracks offenses the FBI singles out for attention. The violent-crime category includes homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults. On the property front, the feds monitor burglaries, larcenies and vehicle thefts.
There were 733 reported violent crimes in the city in the first half of the year, versus 805 the year before.
Property crimes are always much more numerous. There were 4,815 through June 30, compared to 5,083 in the first half of 2012.
The results echoed a statewide trend that saw so-called “Part 1” offenses across North Carolina drop by 4.4 percent in 2012.
State officials say Durham in 2012 had an 8 percent reduction in major crimes. Results in other major cities varied. Charlotte saw a 3 percent increase and Raleigh a 4 percent increase; counts dropped 1 percent in Winston-Salem and 11 percent in Greensboro.
Lopez delivered his report amidst ongoing criticism of the Durham Police Department that has focused on an array of issues unrelated to the crime rate. A group of protestors gathered outside City Hall before the start of Monday’s meeting.
One of his assistant chiefs, Winslow Forbes, recently filed an equal-opportunity complaint that challenges the reasons for his having been denied a promotion this spring to deputy chief.
Forbes was in the audience for Monday’s briefing, along with the rest of the department’s senior command staff.
Lopez has faced criticism for a comment he allegedly made that disparaged a local defense attorney. Additionally, the department is under fire over the handling of two officer-involved shootings.
The chief made a point in his written report of praising an officer involved in one of the shooting incidents, Kelly Stewart. He was wounded in a struggle with a convicted drug dealer, Carlos Riley Jr.
Riley’s supporters allege Stewart accidentally shot himself in the leg after stopping Riley without reason.
The chief’s written report said Stewart in May was among three officers who received the department’s Purple Heart.
Stewart additionally distinguished himself, Lopez said, on June 16 by administering CPR to a man after police were dispatched to a cardiac-arrest call on Onslow Street.
Council members didn’t have much to say after Lopez finished his report. Councilwoman Cora Cole-McFadden asked whether juvenile crime is also down. Lopez responded that he presumes it’s falling along with the overall numbers.
Mayor Bill Bell on Tuesday said there is a risk of the complaints overshadowing the department’s results. He said administrators have to address them and ensure that “people have trust in our Police Department.”
“You can’t totally ignore those issues, whether they are valid or not,” Bell said. “When people keep saying the same thing over and over again, people are going to start believing it if you don’t respond in a different-type way.”