Violent crime continued its upward trend during the first three months of 2015, Police Chief Jose L. Lopez reported Monday, but special operations in targeted areas have led to a number of suspect arrests.
Following a 15 percent increase in 2014 over 2013, violent incidents rose 22 percent in this year’s first quarter over the same period a year earlier, Lopez said in his first-quarter report to the City Council.
In January through March: the city had 10 homicides, compared with six in the same period of 2014; robberies increased from 134 to 158, or 18 percent; and the 325 incidents of aggravated assault were 28 percent up from 254 a year earlier.
“We had a lot of shootings into dwellings in the first part of the year,” Lopez said before the council meeting. In such cases, each occupant of the dwelling is counted as a separate assault.
The 2014 increase also was driven by a rash of shootings into dwellings and vehicles early in the year, which police attributed in part to a feud between two factions of the Bloods gang early in the year.
This year, Lopez said, “It wasn’t one issue. ... The whys are varying. It just depends on the conflict of the day and the individuals.”
Analysts found three areas where violent incidents were concentrated, and identified a number of suspects, he said.
“We took officers into the communities,” Lopez said. “Went door to door ... and said there will be a long-term police presence (here) and explained why.”
One target area covered East Weaver Street, Cornwallis Road and South Roxboro Street. Another included the McDougald Terrace public-housing complex, in southeast Durham. A third was around Liberty Street in East Durham.
The 90-day operation led to the arrests of more than 25 individuals, and 213 felony charges including murder, robbery, kidnapping, drug trafficking and breaking and entering.
“We saw the numbers (of violent incidents) go down, but now there’s an uptick in other parts of the city,” Lopez said.
Seventeen rapes were reported during the first quarter of 2015, down from 25 in the first quarter of 2014.
There were also 2,543 Part 1 property crimes – burglary, larceny and motor-vehicle theft – reported, up from 2,501 a year earlier. An 8 percent rise in larceny offset a 5 percent drop in burglary and an 8 percent drop in stolen vehicles.
In other business during Monday’s council meeting, Mayor Bill Bell asked Councilman Eddie Davis to take the lead in organizing a “community conversation” on public-police relations and violent crime in the city.
A study U.S. Justice Department consultants delivered in April recommended Durham undertake a comprehensive, community-wide strategy to improve relations and reduce violence that disproportionately affects minority residents and neighborhoods.