Update: City Manager Tom Bonfield emailed me last night with data from the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau. This graph shows violent crimes per 100,000 starting in 2009 to presumably the first six months of 2014. It then makes a full year projection using the trend line.
This shows there were gradual increases from 2009–2012, a big drop from 2012–2013, and then a significant increase for 2014.
When U.S. Department of Justice analysts Scott Decker and Hildy Saizow visited Durham this spring, they were alarmed that the murder rate of young black men in the city is eight times the national average.
In a presentation before City Council, Decker said:
“If you think of any of these social conditions, which are troubling and problematic, were eight times higher for a population subgroup than the overall U.S. rate, it ought to cause an outrage. It ought to cause a call to action.”
That call to action happened today when City Manager Tom Bonfield announced the forced resignation and retirement of Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez.
Lopez, who was hired in 2007, will leave the department Dec. 31.
If you look at Lopez’s record, his defensive personality and poor public relations skills notwithstanding, it is less than illustrious. National Nights Out and youth basketball games are all well and good, but on a street level, Lopez’s lack of leadership translated to a lack of community trust—and worse, more killings.
Here are the violent crime statistics over the past year:
As of a Sept. 5, DPD report, violent crime (homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults) is up 14.2 percent over the same period last year. There have been 19 homicides, an increase of 35.7 percent.
The 920 aggravated assaults represent a 15 percent increase in those crimes.
If you look at the first six months of the year, the picture gets no prettier:
Homicides are up 60 percent compared to the same period in 2014;
Aggravated assaults are up 13 percent
Reported rapes decreased by 25 percent, which offset the overall increase in the violent crime rate: 13.5 percent over 2014
Add in the conclusion by the Human Relations Commission that DPD, whether consciously or unconsciously, engages in racial profiling.
Add in the history of officer-involved shootings and excessive force:
Last week a DPD officer tasered an African-American man at the Harris-Teeter on Ninth Street, after accusing him of trespassing
La’Vante Biggs and Derek Walker, who were both threatening suicide and had guns when they were shot and killed by an DPD officer. Many community members criticized the department for shooting instead of deescalating the situation.
Jose Ocampo, who was shot and killed after he allegedly brandished a knife. However, it’s unclear how close to officers Ocampo was, and there have been doubts about the justification of the shooting.
Carlos Riley, who was accused of shooting an officer during a traffic stop. It was later revealed at trial that the officer shot himself during the altercation. A jury found Riley not guilty.
Jesus Huerta, who allegedly shot himself while handcuffed in the back of a DPD car. The officer in charge of patting him down was later found to have violated protocol. He was placed on administrative leave but not fired.
And last year, John Tucker, formerly of the INDY, wrote that “Several Durham police officers lied about non-existent 911 calls to try to convince residents to allow them to search their homes, a tactic several lawyers say is illegal. The officers targeted residences where individuals with outstanding warrants were thought to be living, and told them that dispatch had received a 911 call from that address, when no such call had been made."
More on this story as it develops—the city will undertake a national search for Lopez’ replacement —but readers, are there any police chiefs that are doing it right?