The news wasn’t good from Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez in his first-quarter report to the Durham City Council on Monday. In fact, the news was terrible.
There was a 15 percent increase in violent crime in the city in 2014 over 2013. So far this year, there has been a 22 percent increase over the same period last year. That is maddening, shocking, depressing ... adjectives seem inadequate.
There were 10 homicides, up from six in the same period last year. Robberies went from 134 to 158, and aggravated assaults were up an astonishing 28 percent from a year earlier.
Lopez said one reason for the statistical increase was “a lot of shootings into dwellings in the first part of the year.” That would increase the numbers because a separate assault is logged for each person in the dwelling fired upon. The same thing was true last year, and police said that was due to a feud between factions of the Bloods gang.
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The chief said police officers were going into the areas of the city where the most violence occurred, emphasizing a greater police presence, talking with people door to door. A special 90-day operation resulted in multiple arrests and over 200 felony charges. But while crime went down in some places, it went up in others, Lopez reported.
Property crimes and other thefts also increased.
This is something Durham’s council must address with alarm and urgency. Already, the U.S. Justice Department has recommended the city undertake an effort to connect police better with the community and to produce strategies to reduce crime.
The increase in violent crime sullies the city’s image, and the numbers speak for themselves, despite reassurances from city officials that those numbers do not reflect the “real Durham.”
It’s time to do more, to call in experts from other cities where troubling crime patterns have been addressed, to acknowledge the problems fully and to raise the consciousness of the community.