City leaders say a continued increase in crime in Durham is troubling and they are investigating.
“It is obviously very concerning,” City Manager Tom Bonfield said about a 13.5 increase in violent crime and a 3 percent increase in property crimes in the first six months of the year compared to the same time last year
A jump in aggravated assaults, robberies and homicides drove the increase in violent crime, Police Chief Jose Lopez told the City Council this week.
A total of 1,079 violent crimes were reported in the first six months compared to the three-year average of 921.
From January to June, there were 16 homicides, a 60 percent increase compared to the same period in 2014. Of the 16 homicides, 13 have been cleared by arrest, Lopez said. Six cold cases from prior years have also been cleared with arrests.
Reported rapes decreased by 25 percent to 39, but reported robberies increased 20 percent to 360. Aggravated assaults increased 13 percent to 664.
In April, officers arrested six people who were charged with committing a dozen armed robberies during that month, Lopez said.
There was a 3 percent increase in property crimes – burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft – in the first six months of 2015.
Reported burglaries fell 3 percent to 1,670, but were still higher than the three-year average of 1,628.
Reported larcenies rose 7 percent with 3,391 reported incidents, along with a 4 percent increase in motor-vehicle thefts to 305.
From January to April, the Police Department held a 90-day initiative to address aggravated assaults and shootings.
The initiative led to 215 felony arrests, 175 drug arrests, and 40 firearms being confiscated, according to a report.
In April, CrimeStoppers and Project Safe Neighborhood started an initiative that focused on seeking information about firearms used in crimes and possessed by felons, Lopez said. CrimeStoppers will pay up to $500 in cash for information leading to a felony arrest and recovery of an illegal gun.
City officials are analyzing the crime statistics that show increases since 2013, a year in which the city experienced an unexplained reduction in crime, Bonfield said. They are comparing Durham’s numbers to 10 peer cities to determine whether it’s a larger trend or something unique to Durham. They are also exploring steps the Police Department can take to address the increase.
The July numbers, which weren’t included in the quarterly report, showed the crime rate decreasing, Bonfield said. If that trend continues, the numbers could level off and be about equal to 2014.
City Council members did not discuss the crime rate after Lopez’s presentation Monday night.
City Councilman Eddie Davis said Wednesday that they should have, and it is something he plans to follow up on with Bonfield and the leaders of the Police Department.
“I certainly am concerned about it,” he said.
Councilwoman Cora Cole-McFadden said she wants to find out more about the patterns and whether the increase in property crimes can be linked to one or several people.
To address crime, Cole-McFadden said, neighbors need to get to know each other. The city has to strive to build a “more positive relationship between the community and police,” so people will feel comfortable reporting problems in their neighborhood.