Raleigh crime up, bucking trend

City crime rises in the first six months of '08, but U.S. data show a drop in that period

Staff WriterJanuary 13, 2009 

Though crime declined across the country in the first six months of last year, an FBI report released Monday shows both violent and property crime rose in Raleigh.

According to the FBI's Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report comparing the first six months of 2008 with the same period in 2007, violent crime in the United States dropped 3.5 percent and property crime declined 2.5 percent. The FBI defines violent crime as murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Property crime consists of burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson.

In Raleigh, violent crime rose 12 percent and property crime increased almost 2 percent in that six-month period. For all of 2008, violent crime increased 5.69 percent and property crime rose 3.09 percent, according to Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue. Raleigh police blame population growth and an increase in gang activity for the Capital City's rise in crime. More young people are committing serious crimes, particularly robbery and murder, Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan said.

The FBI report did not include numbers for Durham, but preliminary reports indicate that violent crime rose in that city while property crime fell, according to Durham police spokeswoman Kammie Michael. Through November of last year, violent crime in Durham was 8 percent higher than during the same period in 2007. Property crime dipped slightly, by less than 1 percent.

Robberies and homicides are at the heart of Raleigh's increase in violent crime. Both offenses reached historic highs last year, police reported.

Raleigh's killings jumped 48 percent in 2008, claiming 35 lives. That is the largest number of murders in the city since at least 1970, 10 more than the 25 murders recorded in 2007. Also, for the first time in city history, robberies crossed the 1,000 mark, with 1,064 of them last year. That was a 21 percent increase from the previous year's 879.

By comparison, murders nationwide dropped 4.4 percent and robberies fell 2.2 percent in the first six months of 2008, the FBI reported.

Raleigh did see a decline in forcible rape and aggravated assault. Those declines mirrored decreases in the offenses nationwide: Forcible rapes dropped by 3.3 percent and aggravated assaults by 4.1 percent, the FBI reported.

Sughrue said the increase in the city's overall crime rate can be partially attributed to a 3.31 percent population spurt from 2007 to 2008. That increase nearly matches the overall crime increase of 3.47 percent, he said.

Dolan said repeatedly last year that the city's homicides and robberies were closely linked to increasing gang activity, with young people choosing armed robbery as their first crime. He pointed to the need for mentoring programs and community resources to help keep youth in school and out of trouble.

thomasi.mcdonald@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4533

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