Durham chief: Crime rose 4.3 percent in 2013

Mar. 06, 2014 @ 07:43 PM

Propelled by property offenses, major-crime totals in Durham rose by 4.3 percent in 2013, Police Chief Jose Lopez told elected officials on Thursday.

Violent offenses – homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults – were down an overall 5.9 percent. But an increase in the always much-more-numerous category of property crimes offset those gains.

Major property crimes include, by the FBI’s reckoning, burglaries, larcenies and motor-vehicle thefts. As a group, they rose nearly 6 percent. Each of the three main types of property offenses was up, with larcenies leading the way.

Larceny by itself accounted for 54 percent of all Durham’s major crimes in 2013.

And one subspecies of larceny, shoplifting, accounted for “14 percent of all property crimes” reported in the city last year, Lopez said,

The increase also was evident in figures adjusted for changes to the city’s population, the overall crime rate per 100,000 residents going up 3.8 percent in 2013. The violent crime rate dropped 5.6 percent; the property crime rate rose almost 6 percent.

The increased rate was the first of Lopez’s tenure as police chief, which began in 2007. Nonetheless, crime in the city now is less common than it was when he took over from former Police Chief Steve Chalmers.

The overall, per-100,000-residents crime rate has dropped almost 19 percent since 2007. The rate of violence is down 10.3 percent from 2007 levels; the property crime rate has dropped 20.3 percent.

The numbers embedded in Thursday’s report by the chief imply there was a sharp spike in crime during the second half of 2013.

Crime was down 6 percent as of the end of June compared to the same time in 2012, according to prior reporting from Lopez.

The chief was nonetheless happy Thursday with the reduction in violence.

His report noted that robberies are at a “23-year low” and that a special team in the Police Department works to prevent cases of retaliatory violence when retaliation seems possible.

The department’s notable robbery busts late in the year included that of a would-be purse-snatcher who punched a woman in the face, and post-arrest wound up getting charged in connection with 10 other cases.

On the anti-burglary front, detectives in District 4 – the patrol area that covers southeast Durham – arrested seven teenagers they thought responsible for a string of home break-ins that played out late in November and early December.

The group included four 14-year-olds, a 15-year-old and two 16-year-olds. They were leaving school during lunch breaks and breaking into homes in neighborhoods along the Fayetteville Street corridor, the chief’s report said.

Lopez noted that the department continues to clear cases at rates topping the FBI-reported average for cities roughly Durham’s size.

The past two years it’s made arrests in or otherwise solved about half of the violent-crime cases reported to it.

It’s not nearly as good at solving property crimes, in general clearing only 1 of every 5.

But the FBI’s estimates imply that the returns on property-crimes investigations on average are worse elsewhere, the nationwide clearance rate of them for comparable cities being just 17.6 percent.