DURHAM — When the Rev. Rob Tart and his family moved to Northeast Central Durham in 1995, his wife was afraid to go outside.
Drug dealers roamed the area and prostitutes stood on street corners while pimps watched.
One night, fed up with loud music, the occasional gunshots and constant arguing by the people in the neighborhood, he called the police. They offered to drive by and check out the situation but said the only way that officers would get out of the car was if he met up with them.
That was 18 years ago. Now they help, said Tart, a chief operating officer for the Durham Rescue Mission.
The Durham Police Department formed Operation Bulls Eye in 2007 to help combat crime in the eastern part of Durham.
The initiative focuses on a 2-square-mile area that accounted for 20 percent of the citys violent gun crime, shots fired calls and validated gang members from May 2006 to April 2007.
Deputy Chief Larry Smith said Thursday that crime has decreased significantly in certain categories, particularly violent crimes from August 2007 through July 2013. Police did not release statistics on other types of crimes in the area since the campaign started.
Jerod Ruffin, 25, has lived in Northeast Central Durham for 10 years. He questioned the numbers.
I dont think crime went down, Ruffin said while shopping at Los Primos grocery store on Alston Avenue. Things happen every day. It aint going to ever stop. Theres still robberies and shootings going on.
Violent gun crimes totaled 184 the year before the Bulls Eye began in August 2007. In the year ending July 31, there were 100 incidents, a 46 percent decline from 2007. The numbers dropped even more in the first three years, but violent gun crimes jumped 25 percent since July 2010.
Prostitution calls totaled 189 before the program launched but fell to 73 in the past year, a decrease of 61 percent.
We cant think that its going to keep going down, down, down, down, to zero, Smith said. Thats not realistic. Do we expect at some point one year it will go up a little bit? We may. But this is an extended initiative, and we will keep it there to keep that area safe.
The area has continued to see a steady decrease in sound of shots calls, which are down by 53 percent from 2007 to present.
Walter Sneed, who owns Tater Bread Cafe restaurant in Northeast Central Durham, said he thinks the neighborhood is becoming safer.
Alert but not afraid
You didnt want to come over here at night, Sneed said. You were always on your toes. Now, to be very honest, Im alert, but Im not afraid. The neighborhood has made a 180-degree change.
Michael Collado, assistant manager at Los Primos supermarket, said it has a lot to do with the communitys involvement in the police initiative. A Durham resident of 10 years, eight working at Los Primos, Collado said the community is learning how to better address its problems.
We dont sell alcohol, because we know how people get when theyre intoxicated, Collado said. Weve done a lot of contributing when it comes to that.
At the Rescue Mission, Tart said the same. He said the ownership of new businesses and the construction of houses is making the community more attractive.
Its not heaven, but its better, he said.
Alexander: 919-932-2008; Twitter: @jonmalexander1