Violent crime continues to climb in the Bull City, but city leaders applauded Police Chief C.J. Davis’ challenging effort to stop the bloodshed while building trust within the larger community.
“I would like to congratulate you and your team on the differences you are making,” said Councilwoman Cora Cole-McFadden. “In my conversation with the community they have the utmost respect for you and your team and all of the officers out there trying to be guardians rather than warriors.”
The comments followed Davis’ presentation on the annual crime statistics that show that homicides and robberies continued to rise in the in 2016, even as overall crime largely remained the same.
Total reported homicides, rapes, aggravated assaults and robberies in 2016 increased 2 percent to 2,257 incidents, according the annual crime report.
Homicides increased 13.5 percent from 37 to 42.
In 2016 a total of 43 people were killed at the hands of others, the most in at least 36 years in Durham.
One of those killings has been classified as self-defense, police have said. Two more cases are expected to be classified as self-defense, which would bring the number of homicides in 2016 down to 40.
Thirty-eight of the cases involved guns, and six were domestic violence, Davis said. Arrests have been made in 21 cases.
Rapes increased 2 percent to 103, and robberies increased 17 percent to 862.
A robbery task was formed in November to focus on the uptick of robberies in the city, Davis said. It focuses on commercial robberies and ones committed with firearms.
Task force investigators have charged 46 suspects with more than 60 charges, Davis said.
Other steps to address violent crime include the department holding weekly crime-abatement meetings versus every month.
“This has helped us to deploy officers and make adjustments to our crime strategies as we see crime trends occur,” Davis said.
Aggravated assaults dropped 6 percent to 1,250.
Property crime, which includes burglaries, larcenies and motor vehicle thefts, dropped 5 percent to 12,276 – a 20 year low.
Burglaries dropped 19 percent to 2,577. About 82 percent of those burglaries were residential, Davis said. Most stolen items in burglaries include televisions, electronics, computer equipment and tools.
Larcenies dropped 1 percent to 6,762. Motor-vehicle thefts rose 15 percent to 680. Honda Accords are the most stolen vehicles in Durham, Davis said.
About 15 percent of the stolen vehicles had the keys in the ignition and the motor running.
“Let that be a crime-prevention tip,” Davis said.
Beyond the crime statistics, Davis outlined changes, training, and new positions in the department that emphasize the shift that Cole-McFadden mentioned.
Davis became Durham’s top cop on June 6 under expectations that she transform an agency facing mounting criticism relating to its relationship with the African American and Hispanic communities and a rising violent crime rate. Davis worked for the Atlanta Police Department for 28 years, most recently as deputy chief since February 2014.
Some of the changes under Davis include appointing Hispanic and LGBTQ community liaisons, focusing training on fair and impartial policing and the de-escalation of force and suspending motor vehicle checkpoints.