Durham News

Violent crime up 16 percent in Durham

Durham had a 16 percent increase in violent crime in the first nine months of this year, compared to the same time last year.

The increase was driven by a 47 percent increase in homicides and a 17 percent increase in robberies and aggravated assaults, according to Police Chief Jose Lopez, who presented a report to the City Council Monday night.

The report follows the city’s violent crime rate jumping 13.5 percent in the first six months of the year.

So far there have been 34 people killed this year, compared to 21 people during the same time last year.

The homicides include one officer-involved shooting, three self-defense cases and a 2011 incident in which the victim died this year, according to police. Ten of the homicides have been domestic – including four in which the victims were 3 years old or younger. About six of those cases were gang-related compared to 11 last year, Lopez said.

Seventeen of those cases have been cleared with arrests, Lopez said.

From January through September, there were 523 reported robberies compared to 446 during the same time in 2014 and 439 in 2013.

Aggravated assaults, which range from having a gun pointed at person to someone being shot, have increased from 646 in 2013 and 855 in 2014 to 1,001 this year.

Lopez linked the increase to a number of issues, including infighting among gangs, friends and relatives, and young people settling their disputes with weapons. Lopez also pointed out that a number of cities across the state have experience a violent crime increase in 2015.

The department’s sworn ranks are at full staffing, but patrol districts are staffed between 42 percent to 72 percent due to attrition, injuries, sickness, court time, training and vacations, Lopez said.

“Inadequate staffing creates an extra-heavy workload on officers, making them call driven and not allowing them the time they need to leave their vehicles for more positive interaction with citizens,” Lopez said.

Starting on Nov. 27, the Police Department will use up to $60,000 in asset forfeiture funding to fund for overtime pay and increase uniform patrol staffing, Lopez said. The City Council also approved Monday night a consultant contact totaling $91,323 to review and make recommendations on the Police Department’s staffing and resources.

Mayor Bell and the Violent Crime Reduction Roundtable asked in early 2014 the U.S. Department of Justice to assess violent crime, gun violence and community-police relations in Durham.

On Tuesday a delegation of city officials will visit the Boston Police Department, which the assessment identified as a peer city to assist the Police Department. Another site visit to Kansas City, Missouri is scheduled in December. The Department of Justice will cover the expenses for the trips.

Meanwhile, property crime dropped by 3 percent to 7,955 during the first nine months of the year, Lopez said. Robberies dropped 12 percent to 2,317. Larceny experienced a 1 percent increase to 5,188 this year.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges