Violent crime and property crime both rose during the first three months of the year, fueled by a growing number of guns on the street.
Violent crime – homicides, rapes, aggravated assaults and robberies – rose 9 percent from 544 to 595 incidents, Police Chief C.J. Davis said Monday night during her quarterly report to the City Council.
That increase is on top of violent crime rising 7 percent in the first three months of 2016, and 22 percent during the same time in 2015.
Homicides dropped to seven from 11 in 2016 and 10 in 2015. Three of the seven homicides were ruled self-defense, Davis said.
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Rapes increased 35 percent to 31. Aggravated assaults increased 1 percent to 322. Robberies increased 24 percent to 238, according to the report.
The Police Department has taken a number of steps to address the violent crime, including the ongoing efforts of the robbery task force in addition to targeted operations in problem areas, Davis said. About 27 percent of the robberies were commercial, and 63 percent were committed with firearms.
Davis also linked the ongoing rise in violent crime to an increasing number of guns on the street, many of them stolen.
Property crime - burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft – increased 7 percent to 2,295 incidents.
Burglaries dropped 4 percent to 570. Larcenies increased 9 percent to 1,573 incidents, while motor vehicle thefts increased 27 percent to 173 incidents.
One in four stolen cars had their keys left in the ignition, Davis said.
City Councilman Charlie Reece said he was disappointed with the increase in crime but took “comfort” in Davis focusing on the crimes with the biggest increases: robbery, larceny and motor-vehicle theft.
Davis also updated the council on body camera implementation following its approving 530 cameras for police officers in November.
More than 150 cameras have been deployed, Davis said. Officers in Districts 1, 2, and 4 have been trained and outfitted with cameras.
A short survey of residents who interacted with police officers with cameras found more 90 percent didn’t know officers were wearing a camera.
“So there is going to be more training on communicating the fact that I am recording this particular incident,” Davis said.
About 75 percent said the cameras increased their trust in the police, and nearly 95 percent said they were comfortable being recorded.
The Police Department is creating a body camera unit, Davis said. More than 20,000 videos have been uploaded, and the department is establishing a way to audit the videos to ensure officers are turning on the cameras and address any other concerns.
Last fall, the Police Department announced it was offering hiring incentives for both entry level Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) and Advanced Law Enforcement Training (ALET) positions.
The department is providing a one-time hiring bonus of $5,000 upon successful completion of all phases of both academies and field training, and a signed four-year commitment.
The department is also offering a one-time relocation bonus of up to $3,000 for officers who move into the Durham city limits. Officers who live in the city are also eligible for take home cars. Thirty-five take home cars have been authorized.
About 499 of 547 sworn positions are filled, and 107 of 124 non-sworn positions are filled.
A BLET of 11 graduated in February. Another class with 21 recruits started in February. An ALET class has six officers.
About 132 recruits were tested during the first quarter, which is more than double the 64 tested in the first quarter of last year, Davis said.