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Durham Has 2nd Highest Murder Rate In State; City Leaders Say Numbers Are Misleading

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DURHAM — Durham's murder rate for 2000 is second only to Fayetteville in the state. City leaders say it is a misleading title.

Vince Simonetti, a Durham business owner for more than 20 years, has perhaps the largest antique tuba collection anywhere. He says he is tired of his city getting what he calls a bad rap.

"I feel that sometimes the media portrays Durham in terms of the Triangle area as sort of the bad boy of the Triangle, and even though Durham isn't perfect, Durham deserves better than that," he says.

Simonetti believes all of the bad press just perpetuates the image that Durham is a dangerous place.

The Durham Police Department also believes there is a divide between perception and reality. While the city's homicide rate increased last year, overall crime is down.

"It is continuing to drop each year since we have started our initiatives, and the number of community programs that we have that we work in conjunction with the community to help lower our crime rate, and that is working in our city," says Maj. Dwight Pettiford of the Durham Police Department.

Of the 28 homicides last year, 19 were committed with guns. Most were drug related, but very few were random acts of violence. For any community, one homicide is too many, but people like Vince Simonetti says it is time to balance the good with the bad.

"I think it behooves us to work together more on these issues than to try to portray one area as a bad area to make the other look better," he says.

Of the 28 homicides last year, arrests have been made in 19 of the cases. The department continues to work on a number of programs to fight crime. Police say one of the biggest initiatives is getting illegal guns off the streets.