Durham Crime Cabinet bids farewell to Clement

Nov. 17, 2013 @ 01:55 AM

One of the founders of the Durham Crime Cabinet bid farewell Friday to the group that’s charged with carrying on the mandate of reducing local crime that started 17 years.

Howard Clement, who also retires later this month from his seat on the City Council, was Durham’s mayor pro tem when the committee kicked off in 1997 after a particularly troubling six-year crime wave.

He sought to engage the whole community in the process, said the cabinet’s co-chair, Durham County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow

“Howard was just a huge force for keeping us grounded in working for all the citizens of Durham County,” she said.

She thanked him for his leadership, crediting it for making Durham “a safer place to live and work.”

Patrick Byker, a local zoning attorney who helped establish the cabinet, paid tribute to Clement by saying, “It would not have gone very far without the mayor pro tem at the time – still mayor pro tem in my heart – Howard Clement.”

Byker said that Durham has come a long way in the past 17 years that Clement has co-chaired with Reckhow, and “all that was done because we had great leadership.”

Work remains to be done, Byker said.

“The work of the Crime Cabinet needs to go forward and strive for an ever safer community,” he said.

Mike Woodard, now a state senator but a member of the cabinet during his tenure on the City Council, counted Clement among the “great champions” for the issue of crime reduction in Durham.

“I trace so much of my interest in this issue to my relationship with Howard and his leadership,” Woodard said.

Clement thanked those assembled for the kind words.

“This has been a grand experience and I want to thank all of you for being part of this respectful service,” he said.

Woodard recommended that the committee appoint Clement as an emeritus member. The Crime Cabinet did so, unanimously.

“You’re welcome back any time,” Reckhow told him as he departed with his wife, Annie.

In other Crime Cabinet business on Friday, Shelly Green of the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau shared comparative crime statistics for Durham, other cities in the Southeast and across the nation for 2012.

Among other information in her report:

• Durham city and county both fell below average in the region for homicides and rapes. However, the city was above average when it comes to robberies and aggravated assaults. The county fell below average on robberies, but above average on aggravated assaults. Both city and county violent crimes fell below the national average.

• Property crimes in the city and county fell below both the regional and national averages.

• In a survey about perception of safety, 64 percent of the 400 respondents from the city and the county reported that they felt safe, with 14 percent uncertain and 22 percent feeling unsafe. Of those, people 55 or older felt less safe or uncertain – 54.5 percent and 27.3 percent respectively.

That overall sense of safety is down slightly from last year’s 68.5 percent.

Whites and blacks felt about equally safe, 63.9 and 62.9 percent, although more white than black indicated that they felt unsafe, 25.2 compared to 19.7 percent. Hispanics felt safest – 71.9 percent – with only 12.5 percent uncertain and 15.6 percent feeling unsafe.

Women reported feeling safer than men, 69.7 compared with 57.2 percent.

The basis for the perception of safety – for good or ill, Green said – came mostly from media reports, personal experience or word of mouth.

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