Violent crime is on the rise in Durham this year. There were three homicides within eight days recently, and violent crime was already higher than last year as of the end of March.
The Durham Police Department released its first-quarter crime report Monday. Reported homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults increased by 13 percent in the first three months of 2019 compared to the same period a year ago.
From January through March, there were 12 homicides, which is double the number from January through March 2018.
Eight men have been arrested and charged in connection with nine of the first-quarter homicides. Those killed ranged in age from 20 months old to 46 years old.
In the first three months of this year, there were 33 rapes, 153 robberies and 199 aggravated assaults.
Overall Part 1 violent and property crime — which includes homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft — increased by 16 percent.
Arrests in first-quarter robberies including charges related to:
▪ A home invasion in Hope Valley Farms;
▪ Robbery of the Family Dollar on Bacon Street;
▪ Robbery and stabbing at Macy’s at The Streets at Southpoint;
▪ Bank robberies at three BB&T branches and a PNC Bank branch;
▪ Robbery at Stateside Sweepstakes on Guess Road;
▪ Robbery at the Burger King on West Club Boulevard; and
▪ Robbery at the Sleep Inn on Page Road.
Durham Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis told the City Council on Monday night that the department noticed a trend of robberies, especially of Hispanic people, in apartment complexes.
Most took place in parking lots, with victims going to or returning from work, she said. She urged community members to pay close attention to their surroundings.
Davis said while burglaries were down, 12 percent of them were burglaries of sheds.
The car stolen most often is, again, the Honda Accord, she said, followed by Nissan Altimas and Ford Explorers.
Larcenies accounted for 61 percent of the reported crime in Durham during the first quarter, followed by burglaries at 17 percent.
There were no arrests for prostitution in the first quarter, compared to nine in the same time period in 2018 and one in 2017. Davis said the department’s first effort is to help the person.
Earlier this year, City Council member Mark-Anthony Middleton suggested the council consider funding ShotSpotter, an acoustic gunshot surveillance system that determines the location of gunfire. Over the past three years, the Durham Police Department has averaged 2,356 shots-fired calls per year, according to the city.
Middleton asked Davis on Monday night if her department planned to include it in its budget request for the coming year.
Davis said “shots fired” technology is a great tool, but they are also looking at the impact it might have on the community. She stopped short of saying police would ask for it in their budget.
Middleton said he wants the council to fund ShotSpotter regardless.
“This council should be prepared to act and demonstrate to people we take this issue as seriously as trees, and bikes and tire mulch ... and spend some money,” he said.
Jackie Wagstaff, a former council member, said the council “cherry picks” who is part of discussions about solutions to crime.
“We’re the ones who understand these streets,” Wagstaff said, adding the people she sees need jobs.
Abdul Burnette told council members they need to spend more time in public-housing communities and on the streets.
Speaker Dennis Garrett said three minutes isn’t enough time for public comment. He thanked Davis and Mayor Steve Schewel for what they are doing for the city, “but it ain’t enough,” he said.
“We need to put people in office who know the streets. I’m going to run for City Council,” Garrett said.
Candidate filing opens July 5. Incumbent at-large council members Javiera Caballero, Jillian Johnson and Charlie Reece are already campaigning to serve another term.
In 2018, overall crime was down from the previous year, both violent and property crimes. But homicides in 2018 were higher than in 2017.