Two months ago, C.J. Davis took the helm of the Durham Police Department. On Monday night, she got her first chance to show off her top-cop chops as she clued the city council into the latest crime report.
It contained no surprises, but there was a glimmer of good news. Aggravated assaults—which have been on the rise in recent years—saw a 9 percent decline in the first six months of 2016 compared to last year. Overall, crime is down 10 percent.
Less good news: homicides were up 31 percent. Violent crimes—murder, rape, aggravated assaults, robbery—stayed virtually the same. In the first six months of 2015, there were 1,079 violent crime incidents; the first six months of 2016 saw 1,077.
Then again, miniscule as it is, that's the first decline in violent crime the department has reported since 2013. As Davis said, "We're gonna claim that." They'll claim this, too: property crimes—burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft—were down 12 percent, and burglaries alone were down 29 percent.
But it wasn't the crime stats that interested council member Steve Schewel. Instead, it was the moves the chief was making to address issues that arose during her predecessor's reign.
"One of the things, over the last few years, that I think the department has not done as well as it ought to be doing is in at least a couple of cases, how we have handled two young men who were suicidal with guns," Schewel said. "Both of those young men died at the hands of our police officers. I don't blame the individual officers on sight, [but] in my mind, neither Derek Walker or La'Vante Biggs ... had to die."
Schewel also asked Davis what the department is doing to address biases in traffic stops that have disproportionately affected African-Americans in Durham.
"We have to pay very close attention to our tactics and how they're perceived by the community, utilizing data and intelligence to go after people who are committing crimes as opposed to spreading a broad net across the community," Davis said. "Crime on one side of town is no different than crime on another side of town; it might just be different types of crimes, but we have to have an even hand."