Durham County

How safe is Durham? Here are the numbers

Durham Police Department patch
Durham Police Department patch City of Durham

Homicides dropped by half from 2016 to 2017 in Durham. Burglaries and traffic stops are down, too.

But rape and property crimes have increased and the Durham police force isn't as diverse as the city.

Durham Police Chief Cerelyn "C.J." Davis presented her annual crime report to the City Council on Monday night. Here are the highlights:

Violent crime

Violent crime overall rose slightly in 2017 compared to the previous year. In 2017, 244 people were shot compared to 214 people shot in Durham in 2016. But homicides were way down.


2015: 37

2016: 42

2017: 21

That’s a 50 percent drop in homicides from 2016 to 2017.


2015: 101

2016: 103

2017: 132

That’s a 28 percent increase from 2016 to 2017. Davis said there is no indication of serial type cases, but rather that people feel more comfortable. reporting them as part of #MeToo movement.

Davis said that some rape reports were belated by months up to six years, "significant enough for us to see individuals are feeling more comfortable coming in and reporting crimes that may have occurred some time ago."


2015: 736

2016: 862

2017: 855

Aggravated assault:

2015: 1,336

2016: 1,250

2017: 1,256

Robberies were down slightly and aggravated assaults increased slightly.

Diversity in the force

The police forces is still more than twice as white than African-American, so it does not reflect the city's demographics. City residents are 38 percent white and 40 percent African-American.

DPD sworn officers are 66 percent white, 27 percent African-American, 6 percent Hispanic and one percent listed as "other." Sworn officers are also 83 percent men and 17 percent women. Davis noted that is higher than the national average of 13 percent female officers.

Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said he appreciated efforts to diversify the force, but wanted to put "a punctuation on that" it needs to continue.

At the end of 2017, there were 510 sworn officers of 548 authorized office positions. There were 124 non-sworn officers. DPD had a 15 percent increase in recruit applicants in 2017.

Traffic stops in Durham have had major drops over the past seven years, according to data presented by DPD Monday night to the council. The overall rate of searches in 2017 was 4 percent, which is the lowest rate in eight years.

Jason Schiess, who analyzed the DPD search data, said there were two reasons: police officers could no longer check off multiple reasons to search in new computer software in 2015, plus the city's policy change in 2014 that required written consent for vehicle searches. The searches officers did conduct in 2017 produced a higher rate of "hits," which means any search in which contraband is found, like money, drugs or weapons.

There were 11,578 traffic stops in 2017, compared to 14,785 in 2016. In 2010, there had been 32,227.

Schewel recognized that two current city council members, Charlie Reece and Mark-Anthony Middleton, were among those who advocated for the written consent policy before they became council members. Schewel said the change shows a police culture shift that has affected thousands of people in Durham who were not stopped by police.

"I think we are trying to do a different kind of policing now," Middleton said.

Officer-worn body cameras are also a relatively recent addition to the Durham Police Department. Durham City Council approved the purchase of police body cameras in late 2016. Davis said Monday that the only request to view footage in 2017 was from an insurance company.

Property crime

Property crime in Durham was up by 3 percent in 2017, with vehicle thefts going up and burglaries going down.


2015: 3,187

2016: 2,577

2017: 2,337

That’s a nine percent drop in burglaries from 2016 to 2017.


2015: 6,815

2016: 6,762

2017: 7,197

There was a six percent increase in larcenies in 2017.

Vehicle theft:

2015: 592

2016: 680

2017: 746

Vehicle thefts were up by 10 percent in 2017.

Train rescue

The DPD report council received separately from Davis' presentation at the meeting also recognized several officers for their work “above and beyond” in the fourth quarter of 2017. Among them were two officers who saved someone from an oncoming train.

Officer T.A. Paylor was responding to a single vehicle accident near Plum and Pettigrew streets on Oct. 30, 2017. He found a car partially on railroad tracks and partially in a ditch while a train was heading toward the accident site. The driver was paraplegic and unable to get out of the vehicle. Sgt. D.M. Leeder was two blocks away and heard the oncoming train. As he arrived on scene, he saw the train and heard the warning bells at the railroad crossing.

DPD had contacted the train company but the train appeared unable to stop in time. According to the DPD report, “Leeder ran across the tracks, while the train was still bearing down on the crossing, to assist Officer Paylor. Sgt. Leeder and Officer Paylor were able to pull the driver from his vehicle and the train came to a stop within yards of the accident scene. The officers later learned that the train had been carrying chemicals.”

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563; @dawnbvaughan