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Durham chief: police 'on top of it' despite 'alarming' crime stats

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Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez admits newly released crime statistics are “alarming.” Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez admits newly released crime statistics are “alarming.”

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez admits newly released crime statistics are “alarming,” but said his agency is working to bring the numbers down.

The crime report outlines statistics for the first quarter of 2014.

Violent crime increased 36 percent, driven primarily by a 70 percent increase in aggravated assaults, according to the report.

According to the report, the agency recognized that multiple victim incidents, such as shootings into crowds and occupied residences, were pushing numbers up.

"That all depends on who's having a conflict with whom and why,” he said.

The report showed burglaries and larcenies pushed property crime numbers up 10 percent. The report showed decreases in reported rapes and vehicle thefts.

Rev. Melvin Whitley, a community activist, said the numbers reflect what many community members already feel.

"We did not need the statistics to tell us that we're living in a nightmare, he said.

"You have a gunshot going off in the community and you wonder whether the next round is going to be in your house. I think that's a good example of 'nightmare.'"

Other people who live in Durham told WNCN News that they have not seen the crime that’s reflected in the report.

"I still hear of crime and everything, it's just not been as frightening as people lead you to believe,” said Christine Chen.

Kate Studwell said, “I'm not really exposed to a lot crime where I end up. I just, when I'm out and about , just try to stay safe."

The grouping of crime that includes property and violent crimes was up 13 percent this quarter compared with the same time last year. But, last year the numbers were at a 14 year low.

“Maybe it's not as drastic as it seem like,” said Duke University student Andrew Ang.

Chief Lopez said, “We want to keep it at these 14 year low scores and would have preferred to have had a 15 year low score. That didn’t happen, but nevertheless, we’re on top of it as far as applying resources to the issues at hand.”

Durham police attempted to crack down on violent crimes in certain areas of the city through the Violent Incident Response. During this effort, police made 16 arrests, seized three firearms, executed two search warrants and setup three license checkpoints, police said.

Still, the chief emphasized the need for community involvement.

"I'll tell you who knows why this is happening, and that is our community and we need them to work with us and come forward,” he said.

Rev. Whitley said some of the people he's spoken with in the community have lost trust in the department, after months of controversy on how they handled some cases and allegations of racial bias.

"If we don't trust the police department, you're not going to get any help from the community and that trust has to be restored,” he said.

Whitley said there should be a change of the top of the agency.

Meanwhile, amid criticism of the department, the chief said, “I'm very proud of the fact that these officers have not allowed themselves to be distracted."

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

Justin Quesinberry

Justin is a reporter for WNCN and a North Carolina native. He has spent the better part of the last decade covering the news in central North Carolina.  More>>

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