RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Raleigh Police released crime data from the fourth quarter of 2022 during a press conference Wednesday, as they continue to work on violent crime across the city.
Over the final three months of 2022, there were nine homicides, up from six homicides over the same time period in 2021, and five homicides in 2020. Among them was the mass shooting in the Hedingham community, in which a 15-year old shot and killed five people and injured two others.
"A disturbing trend we have noticed not only in the fourth quarter of 2022 but throughout the year is the accessibility of firearms by juveniles. Eleven percent of the aggravated assaults in the fourth quarter were committed by juveniles who had access to a firearm," said Chief Estella Patterson.
She highlighted the department's work with the North Carolina Division of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention on a Safe Storage campaign, as well as a planned Community Violence Interrupter Program being led by the Raleigh-Apex NAACP.
"I'm asking community groups and non-profits that may be listening to this crime briefing to consider partnering with RPD, if you are not already, to provide gun awareness and anger management training for our youth," Patterson explained.
Robberies from an individual fell sharply, from 122 cases in the fourth quarter of 2021 to 92 cases in the same quarter this year, and aggravated assaults as well as aggravated assaults involving a firearm also dipped. Patterson touted proactive efforts to address crime, including at nightclubs, bars and sweepstakes.
"It's naive to think that we won't see increases in various crime categories. It is part of the growing pains of being a major metropolitan city. But I want to assure you that the Raleigh Police Department is devoting every resource it can to preventing and reducing crime," said Patterson. "As part of our crime strategy, we will continue to focus our efforts on locations where we are seeing repeated incidents, such as the 1600 block of New Bern Avenue, where there were two homicides in 2022, one of them being in the fourth quarter."
Currently, the department has 115 vacancies, a number that has drawn considerable attention.
"We pay taxes and I expect better service. At least phone calls from police officers checking what's going on. I don't see one police car come in my lot to check on us," said Mo Youssef, who co-owns Brother Auto Sales on Trawick Avenue.
In September, the business was hit by thieves, who swiped cash, titles, keys, and five vehicles.
"I can't sleep at night. I keep opening the camera and check in on everything," Youssef shared, noting there's been a sharp drop in business since the break-in.
While Raleigh Police were able to recover four of the vehicles, Youssef said they were so badly damaged, he was unable to sell them. Moving forward, he'd like to see a greater presence. In the fourth quarter, robberies from a business remained largely flat (27 in 2020, 25 in 2021, and 26 in 2020 during the fourth quarter, respectively), though motor vehicle thefts increased by 12%.
"We don't have enough officers. I don't know. I thought about applying for a police officer myself so I can help out because, in this kind of business, we're not going to last long like this," Youssef said.
"That's always a challenge for us as a department but we are aggressive in our hiring that we're doing. We currently have a large academy class in place, we have another class starting in January, and we have another large class in July," noted Patterson.
Near the end of her prepared remarks, the Chief discussed a sharp rise in traffic fatalities; up from eight in the fourth quarter of 2021 to 19 during the same time period this year.
"Contributing factors to the fatalities were impairment, as well as excessive speeding and quite frankly just the mere fact that we have more drivers on our roadways than we had even pre-pandemic," said Patterson.
She noted three specific stretches of concern: the 4300-4700 block of Capital Boulevard, the 4400-4700 block of New Bern Avenue, and the 2300-2500 block of South Saunders Street.
"Bringing a gun into a situation never makes anything better. We have to work together and slow down a little bit. And don't let 20 seconds and 30 seconds of anger turn into a mistake that's going to last forever and cause somebody's family to have to miss a loved one for the rest of their lives," president of the NAACP Raleigh Apex Chapter Gerald Givens said.
The organization is teaming up with Raleigh Police to help address the growing gun violence and launching a violence interrupter program this summer. Training begins in a few weeks, where they will work as mediators. The goal is to help reduce violent crime by 30 percent, over the next for years.
"They're going to go in and gather information on potential conflicts and hotspots and our communities. And they're now going to help us to formulate action plans to help resolve those conflicts," Givens explained.