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Violent crime drops 11% in first half of 2009

Bull City residents can rest a little easier at night.

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez told city council members at their Sept. 8 meeting that violent crime has fallen 11 percent in the first half in the year, compared to the same period last year.

Although the numbers are seemingly promising, city council members expressed concern that the statistics do not paint a complete and accurate picture. Despite the double-digit drop in violent crime percentage, murders increased from 12 in the first six months of 2008 to 14 in the first half of 2009 and so far, there have been 35 rapes—up from 29 during the same time period in 2008.

“Anytime you can reduce crime it’s a good thing,” City Council Member Eugene Brown said. “But I think there’s still too much crime and we need to address it.”

Brown, along with several of his colleagues, raised concerns about the increase in the number of property crimes in certain areas of the city, despite the fact that there was a 2 percent decrease in property crimes overall. Burglary, the only other category to see a percentage surge in the first half of the year, increased 13 percent compared to 2008.  

Kammie Michael, information officer for the Durham Police Department, said the department did not know what to attribute the increase in burglaries to, although there have been similar increases in Wake County and Chapel Hill.

Brown said he believes that North Carolina’s poor judicial system has difficulty keeping track of offenders out on probation and parole and those are the ones who are committing most of the crimes. He cited the murders of Duke graduate student Abhijit Mahato and Eve Carson, University of North Carolina student body president—cases where some of the men accused of taking part in the crime were on parole or probation.

“People’s homes are being broken into, their automobiles are being stolen, and it’s a real problem,” Brown said, adding that high numbers of recidivism and the lack of viable rehabilitation programs are also at fault. “Make sure that when you have inmates in the prisons that they are learning something. The prisons... are basically graduate programs in criminology.”

Michael said much of the crime decrease can be accounted for by the number of arrests of those who had committed multiple crimes in the past.

Both Michael and Brown said residents should use community resources to decrease the likelihood that they will be a victim of a crime, such as neighborhood watches, community listservs and the CrimeStoppers hot line.

“People calling us when they see someone who is suspicious and we arrest them for multiple burglaries.... It’s extremely helpful,” Michael said.

She added that DPD has been circulating home safety recommendations from the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission to residents, which encourage homeowners to ensure that all outside doors have deadbolt locks on them and that the perimeter of their homes are well-lit.

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