DURHAM — Six months after stating that Durham “should not and cannot” accept its rate of violent crime, Mayor Bill Bell reported that the rate is down and the city’s new crime-fighting strategies are paying off.
Bell, along with Police Chief Jose L. Lopez, Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews and several court officials, reported at a public “update” attended by about 75 people Thursday night.
Citywide, the number of homicides, robberies and aggravated assaults fell from 489 in the March-June period of 2011 to 448 for the same period this year. In Northeast Central Durham, a crime-plagued area targeted for special attention, the number was down from 97 to 79.
Responding to a 3 percent increase in violent crime in 2011 over 2010, Bell called for a “new direction” in crime-prevention.
In January, new crime fighting methods were announced that included assigning a task force to Northeast Central Durham, improving coordination among law enforcement, the district attorney and judiciary, and raising bail bonds for suspects in crimes that involved firearms.
“My whole emphasis has been those crimes committed with guns,” Bell said.
Gun-related incidents are down, from 243 citywide in March-June 2011 to 212 for the same period this year. In Northeast Central Durham, the decline was from 51 to 33.
“Our (numbers) are improving well,” Lopez said. “The Police Department has really ramped up its efforts.”
Last winter, Bell organized a Violent Crime Reduction Roundtable representing law enforcement, the judiciary, and city and county elected officials and administrators.
One effort is closer collaboration between police and the Sheriff’s Department, as well as with state authorities and the FBI.
“There are no boundaries,” Andrews said.
He and Lopez told the audience they had a role in crime fighting as well.
“You are our eyes and ears,” Andrews said. “You know what’s going on, … you know who’s carrying guns. We do not need your names, (but) we need your input.”
Another effort is identifying and monitoring 10 of the “most violent” past offenders in Durham.
“We had a sit-down,” Lopez said. “We let them know we were going to be watching them, watching them close.”
Since then, he said, some have gone to jail and some have behaved themselves.
“A lot of people see the error of their ways,” Lopez said. “But if they don’t, we’ll still be there to look after them.”