Chief: Durham crime climbed in first quarter

May. 05, 2014 @ 09:59 PM

Crime in the city was up in the first quarter of 2014, the major categories the city tracks for the FBI rising 13 percent over the levels of the year before, Police Chief Jose Lopez said.

The count of violent offenses – homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault – was up 36 percent on 2013’s total through the end of March.

Lopez attributed that to a spike in the number of assaults, which actually is a count of victims, not the number of incidents. He said the Police Department has given the problem “a lot of attention,” trying to quell instances of “retaliatory” violence.

“We’ve had a bunch of cowards shooting into occupied dwellings and into crowds,” the chief explained Monday to the City Council. “If you shoot into a house with 10 persons inside, that’s 10 victims for one incident.”

He said the department “has identified what the problems are and is addressing them, putting resources where necessary.”

And he added that, in the assault cases, it’s identified “individuals we think were involved who are connected to both the victim side and the assailant side,” and will bring local, state and federal law enforcement to bear on them.

It nonetheless was plainly bad news to council members.

For the rest of the year, “we’ve got to find a way to do better,” Mayor Bill Bell said. “This is a bad start as far as I’m concerned.”

Property crime – burglaries, larcenies and motor-vehicle theft – also was up. The count of those offenses rose 9.8 percent year-to-year.

Lopez before the start of Monday’s council meeting voiced optimism that the property crime numbers also will turn around, as investigators have “made quite a few good arrests” in burglary and larceny cases.

He and the department’s executive officer, Lt. Brian Reitz, said police are preaching crime-prevention strategy to residents.

They welcome “the 911 call that says, ‘Something’s not right in my neighborhood,’ and alerts officers to suspicious behavior,” Reitz said.

The actual counts show that there were 419 “Part 1” violent crimes in Durham in the first quarter, and 2,501 property crimes.

Those compared to 308 violent crimes in the opening three months of 2013 and 2,277 property crimes.

The chief’s Monday report continued a trend that emerged in the second half of 2013, when a spike in the crime rate initially erased early-year reductions and then wound up causing a 4.3 percent increase in the full-year totals.

Lopez noted that the figures are rebounding from a 14-year low. “Crime isn’t linear,” he said. “There’s going to be ups and downs over time.”

The increase has coincided with public controversy over the department’s handling of several officer-involved shootings, and with allegations by some groups that it engages in racial profiling.

But the chief discounted any possibility of a connection. “At this point in time, I don’t think one has to do with the other,” he said.