Local News

Durham Mayor Tackles Crime During Address

Posted January 23, 2008 12:33 a.m. EST
Updated January 23, 2008 9:15 a.m. EST

— As violence in Durham continues to increase, Mayor Bill Bell had some strong words for criminals in his State of the City address Tuesday.

"We have got to get tougher on those who commit violent crimes with guns," the mayor said.

Bell also blamed part of the crime wave on a backlog of criminal paperwork.

That problem is "subpoenas being issued, but not being served. Warrants being issued, but not being served,” he said.

So far this month, Durham police have responded to two murders and 70 robberies. There was one murder and were 51 robberies in all of January last year.

Most recently, the University Inn, across the street from Duke Hospital, was robbed at about 1:10 a.m. Tuesday.

“The guy walked in and said give him the money or I'll kill you,” Clerk Gail Huff said.

Huff told police the robber implied that he had a gun and fled on foot after receiving cash from the register. Huff is among at least a half dozen Duke students and staffers that have been recently robbed at gunpoint.

"I worry about my guests," Huff said. "Mostly because they're from out of town, and they don't expect this when they come here. It's just wrong."

Members of the Durham Latino community have also been targeted by robbers. Police are trying to figure out if all, or at least some, of the crimes are connected.

"We have to double our efforts, because this cannot – repeat – cannot continue. It's getting out of hand," Durham City Council member Eugene Brown said.

Brown said more police officers are needed on the streets and that when suspects are arrested, higher bonds are needed to keep them off the streets.

The mayor said he is also in favor of increasing jail bonds.

Durham police receive about 1,200 court papers a month. Deputy Chief Ron Hodge said that due to incorrect information in the papers, only about 50 percent of them get handled.

"It's not due to our efforts to try to get them served. We do the best we can with the paperwork when we get it,” Hodge said.

Bell also had a message for landlords who rent to people they know are lawbreakers.

"You need to watch out, because we are coming for you,” he said.

A town hall meeting scheduled for Wednesday will focus on the recent rash of armed robberies around Duke University's campus. The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Fitzpatrick Center.

"I think all of us are in shock in terms of what's happened in the last three to four weeks," Brown said.

City and university police are stepping up patrols in and around the campus in response to the crime wave.

Anyone with information about recent crimes in Durham is asked to call police at 919-560-4427, Duke police at 919-684-2444 or Durham Crime Stoppers at 919-683-1200. Crime Stoppers is offering up to a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest in connection with the robberies.