Published: Feb 02, 2011 02:00 AM
Modified: Jan 31, 2011 07:12 PM
A high-ranking sheriff's deputy has been making some frightful predictions: black and Latino gang warfare, violence spreading from east Durham to quieter parts of the city, annual homicides topping 100.
But local officials and neighborhood activists have heard Maj. Paul Martin's prophecies before, and they're not about to panic.
"If you look at the veracity and emotion with which he makes these predictions to people, you would expect 50 and 60 percent increases in these types of crime," said Cheryl Stiglett, chair of Partners Against Crime District 2, a citizens group covering northern Durham. "If Martin's predictions were true, we would be seeing a huge increase in break-ins. The actual records don't match the passion. There's a disconnect."
In particular, Martin claims that heroin sales are rising at apartment complexes in northern Durham.
"This development is very ominous and worrisome given the possible increase and scattering of property crimes and the possibility of violence among distributors," he wrote in a report on The Criminal Culture in Durham. "Impulsive individuals will shoot it out whenever and wherever they encounter each other."
The thing is, crime hasn't gone up at apartment complexes in northern Durham. Along Interstate 85 between Broad Street and Duke Street, overall crime has held steady over the past four years at about 300 incidents annually in a half-mile radius. To the east along Roxboro Street and I-85, crime did spike to nearly 300 incidents in 2009, but then in 2010 dropped more than 10 percent from the two prior years, to 232 incidents.
Within a half-mile radius around Page and Lumley roads near Research Triangle Park, another area Martin mentioned, the number of incidents has actually gone down, from 65 incidents in 2007 to fewer than 50 in each of the past three years.
Not only is residual crime not increasing, but Durham's Deputy Police Chief Steve Mihaich said he has no evidence even that heroin sales are increasing in either of the locations Martin suggested.
Martin said Durham has 750 drug houses and 75 drug-dealing locations on the streets.
"Where are they?" said Mihaich. "Let us know. If he's aware of those locations, tell us. We'll investigate them."
Mihaich said he couldn't offer more accurate numbers than what Martin reported.
"We're not going to put this kind of thing out there unless we had the factual information that we could stand behind," Mihaich said.
Durham police patrol within the city limits, while the sheriff's office patrols parts of Durham County outside the city, runs the jail and provides security for county functions like the courthouse. Neither Martin nor Sheriff Worth Hill has returned calls seeking further comment.
Whereas Martin is calling for a "Proactive Presence Policing Team" of 120 new officers dedicated to foot patrols, the police department's 500-plus officers focus on investigating crimes after they happen. Mihaich does advocate preventive measures like job-training for ex-offenders but said funding won't allow for more officers on the streets.
Residents themselves are best equipped for crime prevention, he said.
"They are our eyes and ears out there," he said. "There's 240,000 citizens, so how powerful is that?"
David Harris, president of the Old Farm Neighborhood Association in northern Durham, agreed.
"We could have police on every corner, but if the community is protecting those kinds of activities, it wouldn't matter. They can't be there 24/7," he said. "We have to be the ones to say we don't want it in this neighborhood."