Durham News

Shootings drive Durham crime rate up

Driven by a rash of shootings early in the year, Durham’s violent-crime rate for 2014 rose 15 percent from the year before, according to Police Chief Jose L. Lopez’s annual crime report to the City Council.

Lopez delivered his report during the council’s regular meeting Monday night.

For the year, Durham had 1,870 reported incidents of homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, up from 1,625 in 2013 and the 2009-13 five-year average of 1,661.

Homicides dropped to 22, down from 30 in 2013. Reported rapes totaled 101, compared to 102 the previous year.

Robberies rose 8 percent, from 607 in 2013 to 657 last year, but Lopez said the 2013 total was “a 23-year low.”

Aggravated assault rose from 886 incidents in 2013 to 1,090 last year – 23 percent – largely due to shootings into occupied buildings and vehicles. For reporting purposes in such cases, each occupant counts as a separate case of aggravated assault, Lopez said.

Responding to a question from City Councilman Steve Schewel, Lopez said police had redeployed officers to the areas where the shootings were occurring and sought help from those areas’ residents.

“We also went ... door to door and let the community know what was going on,” Lopez said. “It’s been paying out very well for us (with) an extreme reduction in the shootings.”

Property crime – burglary, larceny and motor-vehicle theft – was up 2 percent in 2014.

While the year’s total of 565 motor vehicle thefts was down 21 percent from 2013’s 716 – the lowest number in 15 years – it was more than offset by 3,657 burglaries, 8 percent more than the 3,373 a year before.

Lopez, who became Durham’s police chief in 2007, also said Durham’s crime rate has trended down for the past 15 years. In 2000, according to a chart in his report, there were 8,696 reported crimes per 100,000 residents; in 2014, there were 5,293 per 100,000.

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Chief wants more police

Durham needs to hire 28 additional police officers in the 2015-16 fiscal year to catch up with the city’s growth, according to a staffing report Police Chief Jose L. Lopez presented the City Council last week.

The city has 512 sworn officers on its police force and has not added positions since 2008, Lopez said. By the end of fiscal 2019-20, according to the report, Durham needs to add a total of 71 patrol officers and investigators.

Lopez used a combination of professional standard measures and police staffing in other cities, including Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Raleigh, to derive his figures. To read more, see nando.com/pubsafety.