DOJ offers suggestions for reducing violent crime in Durham

DOJ offers suggestions for reducing violent crime in Durham (Image 1)

A report from the United States Department of Justice on violent crime, and community and police relations in the City of Durham shows the city’s overall violent crime rate trended downward between 2000 and 2013, but gun-related homicides were up.

“We were asked to look at violence overall, particularly gun violence as well as community police relations,” said Hildy Saizow, senior diagnostic specialist at the DOJ. “We collected and analyzed a lot of data around crime trends, particularly gun violence trends.”

The DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center found that Durham saw 30.2 percent fewer violent crimes and 40.6 percent fewer property crimes between 2000 and 2013. Comparing that data with data from Charlotte, Fayetteville and Winston-Salem, the DOJ said its analysis “revealed that Durham has violent crime levels similar to those of other large cities in North Carolina.”

The DOJ said that while Durham had the highest crime rate among the cities in 2013, the statistic does not reflect an increase in violent crimes in Durham, rather it is due to “progress in other cities.”

“What they found was, relative to other cities, Durham is doing well,” Mayor Bill Bell said Wednesday.

Breaking down violent crime, the review pointed to a decrease in robberies and illegal weapons arrests between 2009 and 2013. But during that same period, the city saw an increase in rates of aggravated assaults, homicides and forcible rapes.

While the city experienced an increase in gun-related homicides and aggravated assaults, the review found convictions in gun-related cases fell by 45 percent during the same period.

Bell said those statistics are why the city asked the DOJ for the review, which was conducted over a nine-month period. The study was paid for by the DOJ rather than the city.

“It was going in the opposite direction, and I wanted to get a handle on it rather than wait two, three, four, five years from now,” Bell said. “What I didn’t want to do was go on and not do anything. Just let it get out of hand.”

In addition to the review, the OJP Diagnostic Center also offered ways for the city to reduce violent crime and gun violence, as well as improve community-police relations. Among its suggestions, the Diagnostic Center pointed to programs in others cities that have helped reduce gun violence and prevent youth violence.

“The issues they speak about is maybe we can coordinate those resources,” Bell said.

Other recommendations offered by the Diagnostic Center include:

  • The Violent Crime Reduction Roundtable should expand its membership and role in gun violence prevention by developing a shared mission, creating a strategic plan for addressing gun violence, gaining community ownership of the problem and solutions and tracking progress and outcomes.
  • The Durham Police Department should develop a comprehensive communications strategy to guide the work of the public information officer, improve department transparency and build greater trust within the community.
  • DPD should develop proactive, long-term violence reduction strategies integrating evidence-based practices and principles of community policing and collaboration.
  • DPD should give priority to community engagement and collaboration and integrate principles of community policing at all levels of the department.
  • The city should focus resources on community infrastructure gaps, promote coordination and collaboration to enhance existing services and programs and encourage revitalization and redevelopment in the challenged areas.

Bell said the city plans to make a decision quickly about what it will do with the information provided by the Diagnostic Center.

Copyright 2015 WNCN. All rights reserved.

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