Published: Aug 23, 2012 02:45 PM
Modified: Aug 23, 2012 02:46 PM
DURHAM - Crime fell 5 percent in the first half of 2012, compared to the same period in 2011, Police Chief Jose Lopez told the City Council last week.
Violent crime and property crime both fell by the same amount, with homicides showing the greatest decline – 35 percent – from 17 to 11.
There have been four more killings since the end of June, Lopez said, but the total to date, 15, is still below the 19 reported by this time a year ago.
“This is a report, in my opinion, that’s moving in the right direction,” said Mayor Bill Bell.
The homicide decline and a 14 percent drop in robberies were enough to offset a 29 percent increase in rape, from 35 cases to 45.
“But we have no indication of any serial rapists,” Lopez said. Most of the cases were domestic violence, or otherwise involved acquaintances, he said.
The increase could be due in part to Durham’s new Special Victims Unit, Lopez said. The SVU began in January to deal with sex crimes and child abuse, and rape victims may feel more comfortable reporting to police with the unit available.Juvenile crime
Bell and Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole McFadden asked Lopez about juvenile crime. According to his report, there were 458 arrests and petitions for minors to appear in court during the first half of this year, including a weapons charge against a 9-year-old.
“Our kids are in need of help,” Cole McFadden said, appealing to the audience in the council chamber and watching on television.
“Please reach out and help a young person,” she said. “If we’re not careful this village is going to be in crisis.”
Bell asked for information on how effective various initiatives are in keeping youngsters out of trouble.
“It would be good to be able to say ‘Bill Bell was in (the Police Athletic League) and we don’t see him involved in any criminal activities,’” the mayor said.
Lopez said police have not been tracking those figures but would welcome local university researchers help to do that.Cold cases cleared
Overall, the chief reported violent crimes fell from 845 incidents to 805. Lopez said the department has also cleared three cold-case homicides this year.
Vehicle theft was up 22 percent, from 264 cases to 322, but declines in burglary and larceny left property crime down overall.
“We are particularly pleased with the decrease in burglary,” Lopez said, because the rate was down after going up for three years. In 2011, the department started a program to alert residents when burglaries occurred near their homes.
One operation on organized shoplifting resulted in 10 arrests on 25 felony and 44 misdemeanor charges, plus seizure of 24 firearms, a vehicle, cash, two illegal poker machines, more than 100 cartons of cigarettes and “large quantities of non-tax paid and/or stolen alcohol” among other items, he reported.