Violent crime dips in Durham. But here’s why property crime is way up.

Property crime in Durham jumped in 2023 with more than twice as many vehicles stolen as in 2022, according to a report presented to the City Council on Thursday afternoon.

Police Chief Patrice Andrews reviewed the annual crime statistics during a council meeting in City Hall. Here are the highlights.

  • Property crimes increased. Property crimes overall were up by 19%, fueled by a more than doubling of stolen cars and trucks. Motor-vehicle thefts jumped from 803 in 2022 to 1,885 in 2023, a 135% increase.

  • Cars left unlocked, running. About a quarter of the stolen vehicles were left running and unattended or open with the keys inside. Andrews also cited a TikTok challenge that spread information on how to break into Hyundai and Kia vehicles, leading to a spike in thefts The News & Observer reported previously. Many stolen vehicles were used for crimes and then quickly “dumped,” she said.

  • Robberies overall decreased. There was a 16% drop in robberies, which the chief attributed to officers investigating and “dismantling” groups of thieves. At least 39% of all robberies were of Hispanic residents, pointing to a ongoing issue of this community being targeted in the city. Guns were used in 55% of incidents. Police report that of 1,359 burglaries last year, 61% were from homes, an 11% increase from the year before.

  • Over half of stolen guns came from vehicles. Andrews reported that 54% of stolen guns were taken from vehicles and that half of those vehicles were left unlocked.

  • Violent crime decreased slightly. There was a 4% decrease in overall violent crime, though the city’s 49 homicides almost equaled the record of 50 set in 2021. There were 157 rapes reported to police, up 16% compared to 135 in 2022. Some of those rapes were from prior years but reported for the first time in 2023.

Shooting statistics in Durham

Overall, 210 people were shot in Durham in 2023, 42 of them fatally, according to police statistics.

That was down nearly 14% from the 243 people who were shot in Durham in 2022, 40 of them fatally.

The report highlighted that there were more shooting incidents (a total of 863, up 12%) although fewer people were shot than last year, a total of 210 people, down nearly 14%.

At least 79 of the shooting incidents were detected by ShotSpotter without an associated 911 call, which Andrews called “significant.” ShotSpotter was put on pause last December by city leaders while being evaluated for its effectiveness.

There were 1,119 firearms seized in 826 incidents, according to the police chief.

“We are seeing multiple guns in these incidents, it’s not just one or two, (there are) multiple guns,” said Andrews.

911 calls for service

There were 9,099 priority 1 calls for service for 2023, up 1.9% from 2022. Police did not meet the targeted average response time of 5 minutes and 58 seconds and currently have an average response time of 6 minutes and 29 seconds.

Police are answering 49% of calls in less than five minutes, short of the 57% target.

How many crimes are police solving?

Police made few arrests in car thefts and other property crimes. Clearance rates were higher for violent crimes and were higher than the FBI national averages.

  • Fewer arrests in property crimes. The clearance rate for property crimes — burglaries, larcenies and motor-vehicle thefts — decreased last year, with the biggest decrease coming in vehicle thefts, from 8.7% to 2.5%. Property crimes are among the hardest crimes to make arrests because it relies on fingerprint evidence, DNA samples and evidence such as video footage, the police chief said. However, the chief noted that 94% of property crimes were cleared by arrest.

  • Police made arrests in 86% of violent crimes. The remaining 14% of violent crimes were exceptionally cleared, which can mean an arrest was not made due to victims declining to cooperate, or other reasons such as the death of an offender, or the District Attorney declining to prosecute in a case.

  • Police cleared 72% of homicide cases, up 10 percentage points from 2022. The clearance rate for homicides was 62% in 2022. Six juveniles were charged with homicide in 2023, including one 14-year-old and three 15-year-olds, the report shows.

  • Police cleared 24% of reported rapes, up 2%. The clearance rate for reported rapes was 22% in 2022.

  • The clearance rate of aggravated assault did not change: the rate of 36.3% did not change and was slightly less than the FBI national average, but “for the amount of aggravated assaults (investigators) are doing very well,” the chief said.

How many police vacancies are there?

The Police Department continues to deal with a chronic challenge of short staffing among its sworn officers.

  • At year’s end, 404 sworn officer positions were filled out of 535 authorized positions, a 24% vacancy rate.

  • 50 officers resigned, 22 retired and 11 were fired last year, the report states, slightly more resignations and terminations than the year before.