Published: Aug 01, 2009 02:00 AM
Modified: Jul 30, 2009 08:31 PM
A new crime study shows Durham in the middle of the pack for similar-sized Southeastern cities.
Durham ranked sixth for violent crime and seventh for property crime among 11 cities of like size and socioeconomic makeup, according to the 2008 Durham Crime Comparative compiled by the Durham Convention and Visitors Burea.
The data, to be presented at the next meeting of the Durham Crime Cabinet, runs counter to the widespread perception that the Bull City is more dangerous than other cities.
"We have a bad reputation, and that reputation is not supported by the facts," neighborhood activist Newman Aguiar said Thursday.
"I think people [will be] surprised by it," he said. "They shouldn't be. The perception is far from reality."
The annual report, developed in coordination with the Durham Police Department is based on crime statistics reported to the federal government and is designed to put Durham's crime in perspective. It ranks Durham and the City of Durham/Durham County combined against 10 Southeast counterparts as well as 27 cities nationwide.
For violent crime, Durham had 830 incidents per 100,000 people last year, 1 percent above the 11 Southeastern cities average but 14 percent below the 28-peer cities average. Greensboro; Winston-Salem; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Rochester, N.Y.; and others reported more violent crime per capita.
For property crimes, Durham had 5,443 incidents per 100,000 people, 5 percent below the Southeastern cities average and 12 percent below the 28-peer cities average. Greensboro; Winston-Salem; Augusta, Ga; Little Rock, Ark; Salt Lake City, Utah; and others reported more property crime per capita.
"People need to have a tool like this to make comparisons," said Reyn Bowman, executive director of the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Often stigmas are formed without any logic."
Too often, Durham gets compared to Raleigh and Chapel Hill because they are next door when those cities have far different populations in terms of poverty and other socio-economic factors, he said.
The data also places Durham in quartiles. For example, Durham was in the second-lowest quartile for property crimes. It ranked in the third quartile for violent crime but only in the second quartile for homicide and rape.
Local experts have used the data from previous reports to see where Durham is faring better or worse than its peers, Bowman said. They have then looked at the peers to see what those cities have done in areas Durham needs to work on.
Aguiar, a veteran of the Durham Police Department's Partners Against Crime program, also serves on the Tourism Development Authority, the board that oversees the visitors bureau. He acknowledged the group's compiling the report could make some suspicious of its findings. But the peer cities can change from year to year and some recently added cities had less crime than Durham, not more, he said. Adding them made the Bull City look worse, not better.
"People mistakenly believe this is an effort at marketing, or reframing the information," he said. "But that has never been the purpose. We don't want to paint a picture of Durham that's inaccurate."