Published: Jan 17, 2009 12:30 AM
Modified: Jan 17, 2009 05:10 AM
Bryce Chaney is the type of resident police and city leaders want others in the Hope Valley Farms subdivision to emulate.
Chaney, 30, said he has reported suspicious vehicles five times since moving into the area three years ago. Twice, his calls led to arrests.
Each time, he said, officers responded within minutes. So Chaney was "flabbergasted" when he heard officers took 30 minutes to respond to a recent armed robbery in the area.
Police response was one of the hot topics at the Thaxton Homeowners Association meeting Wednesday night, where about 100 residents turned out to hear how city and county leaders were responding to recent robberies.
Three residents were robbed at gunpoint in front of their homes in late December. No one was injured, but shots were fired during both incidents in the southwest Durham subdivision bordered by Hope Valley Road, Fayetteville Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.
Residents expected Mayor Bill Bell and some police officials to show up. What they got was a show of city and county force: Bell and three City Council members, Police Chief Jose L. Lopez Sr. and six ranking officers, Sheriff Worth Hill and his chief deputy, City Manager Tom Bonfield, county Commissioner Joe Bowser and city staff.
Community members have to become safety conscious in order to keep their neighborhoods safe, residents and officials said.
"It's up to us to get to know our neighbors. The Police Department can't do that for us," said Holly Eggleston, homeowners association president.
Eggleston pointed out indicators that make a home vulnerable to a break-in, such as piled-up telephone books at the front door, no porch lights and open garage doors.
Police conducted a recent night operation where officers parked in unmarked vehicles with their lights off to see if anyone would report them to police.
"People should have been very heightened to what the problem is, yet we didn't get one call," said Capt. Jon Peter, commander of police District 3, which includes Hope Valley Farms. "We would rather people call because they're concerned about something."
Most residents were concerned about hearing an emergency dispatcher had said it would take up to 30 minutes for an officer to respond after one of the robberies. That night, all but one of the nine officers that patrol the district were responding to a homicide, Peter said. Despite that, two officers from another district arrived in the area 16 minutes later.
Officers might have responded sooner but the caller had said only that a suspicious vehicle was backing into a spot.
"It's like a triage," Peter said. "That doesn't get the top priority based on that information alone."
Since the robberies, police have increased patrols in the area and warned residents through a reverse 911 system that sends out automated calls.
Police advised residents to be vigilant about their surroundings and to take precautions such as closing blinds, installing alarms and having good door and window locks. They also advertised the area Partners Against Crime group, where residents work with police to address crime concerns.
"They need to understand that the majority of criminals, they're committing crimes of opportunity," Lopez said. "So people need to make sure they don't give the criminals an opportunity by leaving their items exposed or giving them the feeling that no one's going to talk about them, that no one is going to call the police."
Michele Justice, 41, leaves her porch light on but not all of her neighbors do the same.
"I think a lot of it is common sense," she said. "There are little things that people can do to help improve the safety of their neighborhood if they're proactive and take responsibility."