Durham County

Violent crime in Durham up in 2019. Police chief blames ‘beefs,’ not ‘gangs.’

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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

Police in Durham investigated more violent crimes during the first six month of this year compared with the same period in 2018.

The Police Department released its second-quarter crime report Tuesday.

Reported homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults were up 16% in the first six months of 2019 compared to the same period last year.

There were 21 homicides in the first half of 2019, compared with 14 in that period last year.

Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis told the City Council the uptick in reported violent crimes was not necessarily gang-related.

“There are various elements to why we’re seeing different groups fighting,” she said in response to a question from Councilman Mark-Anthony Middleton.

“I would not say Durham has a number of gangs,” she said. “There are some groups or enterprises that we have seen take part in some activities, when it comes to beefs or back and forths between two or three groups.”

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Durham Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis City of Durham

The Police Department is using a three-pronged approach to combat crime, Davis said. Officers have increased patrols where crimes have occurred, they’re providing more information in the affected communities and they’re publicizing the department’s campaign against gun violence in the city.

Overall Part 1 violent and property crime — which includes homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft — increased by 26 percent. Reported burglaries (877) were at a three-year low, Davis said.

In the first six months of this year, there were 57 rapes, 294 robberies and 574 aggravated assaults.

A trend of robberies, especially of Hispanic people, remains a concern, Davis said. Nearly 44% of robberies involved Hispanic victims, she said.

Arrests have been made in 14 homicide cases, while three cases were cleared from 2018 and one from 2016, Davis said.

Of the seven bank robberies in the first six months this year, one person was charged in four incidents, Davis said.

Durham leaders gathered together for a press conference to address the increase in violent crime in the recent weeks, including the death of 9-year-old Z-yon Person four days prior, at the Durham Police Headquarters on Thursday, Aug. 22.

Improvements seen

The average response time to Priority 1 calls during the first half of 2019 was 5.87 minutes, which almost met the Police Department’s target average of 5.8 minutes, the report says. It was an improvement over the 6.12 minute average during the first six months of 2018.

The Police Department referred eight youth to the Misdemeanor Diversion Program in the second quarter.

The program was expanded to some adult offenders for the first time in the second quarter. There were 36 adults referred to the program, including 29 who were 18 to 21 years old, three from 21 to 26 years old and four who were over age 26, the report says.

There have been 22 successful completions and 23 people still enrolled and on track to successfully complete the program, the report says.

The Police Department had 523 sworn officers at the end of June out of 547 allotted position within the department, the report says.

The City Council rejected the chief’s request for 18 new officers last spring.

City Council candidate Jackie Wagstaff, a former council member, has criticized the current council for rejecting Davis’ request and not doing more to support the department. The council should keep recreation centers open longer and improve economic opportunities for residents to reduce crime, she said.

“Economics is the driving force behind most of the crime,” she said. “If their economics were improved, this crime would go down. This council needs to start investing in things that will work.”

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Joe Johnson is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer. He most recently covered towns in western Wake County and Chatham County. Before that, he covered high school sports for The Herald-Sun.
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