Outside the city limits in Durham County, violent crime went down 17 percent in 2014 compared with the year before.
Overall, though, a rise in burglaries from 326 in 2013 to 467 last year was enough to raise the overall Part One crime total by 2 percent for the year.
The 2014 total of Part One crimes – murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor-vehicle theft and arson – was 833. The 2013 total was 814.
“We were hoping we were going to match that or do a little better,” Chief Deputy Donald Ladd told the Durham Crime Cabinet last week. “But it didn’t pan out that way.”
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Ladd and Police Chief Jose L. Lopez gave annual reports to the Crime Cabinet, an advocacy group of local government and justice-system officials, and some private citizens with interest in crime, courts and public safety.
Lopez repeated the report he gave the City Council on March 2, showing a rise of 17 percent in violent crime and a 2 percent rise in property crime. Overall, the city increase was 3 percent, from 12,532 reported incidents to 12,943.
Both Ladd and Lopez said their departments need more people. Lopez said the police have not added officers since 2008, and he is gathering data to support the request for more staff that he made at a council budget retreat in February.
“The city is growing, and crime, I think, is growing,” Lopez said. “We can’t build a fence around the city and keep people from coming in,” he said. (Lopez has, on other occasions, pointed out that the city’s number of crimes relative to population has followed the national downward trend.)
A rising population also affects the sheriff’s department, Ladd said. Durham County’s 179 deputies respond to calls in the city and assist police, as well as patrolling the country and serving civil processes, providing court security and School Resource Officers (SROs), and running the county jail and animal control.
Over the past five years, the sheriff’s annual calls for service have risen from about 37,000 to “104,000-ish,” Ladd said. Those include more than 1,000 calls a month for animal control, which the department took over from the county’s general-services department in 2012.
“I think that’s one of the better decisions our board (of county commissioners) has made,” said County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow, who co-chairs the Crime Cabinet with City Councilman Eugene Brown.
“Service has improved dramatically,” she said. “We’ve gone from getting many complaints to ... one in two years, pretty amazing.”
Taking over animal control added 10 positions to the sheriff’s staff, Ladd said, plus it added law-enforcement eyes and ears on the streets. But added staff came with added responsibility.
“They’re absolutely running from one call to the next,” Ladd said, and the added staff did not make up for the 21 positions eliminated in 2008 “due to the fact we had to reduce our budget.”
On a more positive note, he said the sheriff’s office is “seeing an absolute uptick in citizens engaging with us,” he said. “Social media has helped us tremendously.”
Posts such as “Be on the lookout for ... ” to Twitter and Facebook produce “an amazing number” of tips from the public, he said. At the same time, the office monitors neighborhood sites and email lists “to see what the community is talking about.
“We used to sit on the front porch and talk to the neighbor next door; now it’s computerized,” he said. “We’re still having that communication; it’s just we’re not looking at each other.”