A familiar refrain in the Herald-Sun and N&O today -- crime numbers are down in the Bull City. Homicides are at about the same level (11) as last year; should this rate hold throughout the calendar year, Durham's homicide rate per capita would rank below such urban gunfire hot-spots as South Bend, Ind., Providence, Palmdale, Calif., and Pueblo, Col.
Despite a spike in burglaries (driven, according to news reports, by the rise in lawn equipment and copper pipe/wiring thefts), overall property crime is down 2%, and violent crime altogether is down 11%.
What's interesting about these data is that they don't represent a one-year change, but the continuation of a many-year trend. Based on the statistics provided over at the City-Data web site, the overall "crime index" for Durham is down by 40% since 1999 -- still above the national average, but clearly trending towards average. Note too that these data end in 2005 and don't incorporate the further drop in aggregate violent and property crimes since then. (The red bar marks Durham's overall crime index, the orange bar the aggregated U.S. index.)
It's not a story you're going to hear every day in the paper (the N&O's lede today on the crime story: "There are 1,064 documented gang members in Durham, more than 300 more than were counted last year.") And certainly not something that you're going to see reflected in opinions of the Bull City from the eastern side of the Triangle.
And to be fair, there's still a long way to go. Crime disproportionately affects African-American and Latino members of our community and has had a devastating effect in parts of East Durham and Southwest Central Durham. But we're heading in the right direction.
It will be interesting to see which tact mayoral challenger Thomas Stith -- who's made crime in Durham a centerpiece of his campaign -- will take in the coming election. Will he continue to criticize what he's characterized as a non-response on the City's part to rising crime (a complaint that doesn't jibe so well with reality)? Or will he try to take credit, as a Durham City Council member since 1999, for the decline in crime rates? One can only wonder.