Police say city crime at 23-year low

Mar. 05, 2013 @ 07:10 PM

Violent crime in the city of Durham increased modestly between 2011 and 2012, but overall, offenses were at a 23-year low last year, Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez told the City Council Monday night.

Lopez said the number of violent crimes rose half of one percent because of rapes (up 11 percent) and aggravated assaults (up 9 percent).

But the number of homicides dropped 19 percent – from 26 to 21. Sixteen people were arrested on murder charges, eight of them teens. Robberies fell 11 percent, and were at a 22-year low.

Part 1 crimes per 100,000 population – murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault – were down 11 percent from 2011 and 42 percent from 2000.

Property crimes – burglaries, larcenies and motor vehicle thefts – fell 9 percent from 2011 and were the lowest since 1988, Lopez reported.

The property crime rate per 100,000 population dipped 10 percent from 2011, and was down 44 percent since 2000.

Altogether, property and violent crimes reported to police dropped 7 percent compared to 2011. The number of crimes per 100,000 population fell 42 percent since 2000, according to the report.

So-called Part 2 crimes – including arson, embezzlement, fraud and vandalism – were up 2.5 percent – from 8,820 to 9,045 between 2011 and last year.

Juvenile arrests in 2012 totaled 993, including 55 children under 13.

Officers confiscated 465 handguns, 73 rifles and 103 shotguns during 2012.

Lopez said the department continues to focus on larcenies, which accounted for 53 percent of Part 1 crimes in 2012. He said about 90 percent of burglaries were to homes, and the most frequently stolen items included computer hardware and software, jewelry, precious metals, electronics, tools and cash.

Motor vehicle thefts were up about 10 percent in 2012, following a 10-year low in 2011. The most stolen vehicles were Hondas.

The report also said that the department is fully staffed with 514 sworn officers, and is at 91 percent for non-sworn personnel, with only 10 of 117 positions unfilled.

Regarding police response times, the report said there were 3,345 “priority-one” calls from July 1, 2012 to Dec. 31, 2012, and that the response times averaged 5.9 minutes, just over the department’s target of 5.8 minutes.

The report also cited the discovery last year of a “chop shop” operation – where stolen vehicles are disassembled and their parts sold – in a warehouse at 706 Ellis Road. A man was arrested on multiple felony charges.

Durham police arrested three people in November in connection with a three-month undercover operation targeting organized retail theft.

In an interview Tuesday, Durham Mayor Bill Bell said he was encouraged by the figures.

“What I’m always looking for, and what I think the council is looking for, are trends in terms of our crime – whether they’re going up, staying flat or going down. And the trend the chief presented was a downward trend, which is always good, and some of the numbers were pretty impressive.”

Bell said that in addition to good police work, the community deserves credit.

“In addition to chasing criminals and solving crimes, police are also doing community work, and I think that’s a very important part – it shows another face to the community of what the police are about, and builds relationships,” Bell said.

“And while we give credit to law enforcement in terms of these numbers, we also give credit to the community for their cooperation.”

“Are we satisfied?” Bell asked. “No. I don’t think we’ll ever be satisfied. But when you see the trends going down, that’s encouraging.”