Editorial: Still work to do on crime in community, schools

Mar. 06, 2013 @ 09:37 PM

The news about Durham crime statistics could be better.

Yes, overall, offenses were reported by Police Chief Jose Lopez to be at a 23-year low last year.

Homicides are down. Property crimes declined too. But rapes and aggravated assaults are on the rise.

So, although the chief had some good spin – and legitimate weight - to put on the numbers for the City Council on Tuesday night, it’s obvious that we still have work to do.

“Are we satisfied?” Mayor Bill Bell wondered in an interview with The Herald-Sun’s Keith Upchurch. “No. I don’t think we’ll ever be satisfied. But when you see the trends going down, that’s encouraging.”

Those city stats came about the same time Durham Public Schools officials gathered to discuss crime trends among students.

In a troubling turn, DPS students seem to be running into more trouble with alcohol, drugs and weapons.

To make matters worse, the reported weapons – mostly knives, scissors and the like – are finding their way increasingly into the hands of elementary school students.

However, weapons and alcohol increased just a small amount compared to drug possession.

Narcotics, including prescription drugs, jumped the most during the 2011-12 school year, said Tina Ingram, DPS security director.

Heidi Carter, chair of the DPS Board of Education, said that these problems don’t find their origins in the school hallways.

“It’s not starting in our schools,” she said. “They start in the community and our neighborhoods and then come into our schools.”

But if crime is at a 23-year low in our community, it can be a worrisome sign that offenses are on the rise in Durham schools.

However, Ingram tempered these statistics with the possibility that more crimes aren’t occurring than in the past. Instead, they may be reported more often thanks to the district’s increased efforts at deterrent and detection. One of those efforts, the anonymous Text-A-Tip program, yielded at least 50 reports that the district could investigate, she said.

We hope it’s just a matter of better detection methods and that the district can work with families to head off further problems.

We want to see those community crime trends keep going downward.