Raleigh’s police chief addresses rising crime and access to firearms


RALEIGH, NC — Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson spoke publicly Wednesday afternoon about violent crime statistics for the fourth quarter of 2022.

Speaking to the Raleigh Police Department’s Southwest District, Patterson said the number of teenagers suspected of violent crimes is a particular concern. In the past three months, Patterson said about 30 aggravated assaults have involved minors gaining access to firearms.

Raleigh also saw a 50% increase in homicides in the last quarter of the year compared to the last quarter of 2021.

Raleigh’s 49 homicides in 2022 were the highest in a single year since the FBI began keeping comprehensive violent crime statistics in 1995. Among those killed was a 16-year-old boy, an innocent bystander, shot in the head in April outside a convenience store.

Homicides by Year by Raleigh Police Department (Year: Number of Homicides):

  • 2022 year: 49 murders
  • 2021 year: 33 murders
  • 2020 year: 27 murders
  • 2019 year: 29 murders
  • 2018 year: 17 murders
  • 2017 year: 27 murders

Patterson expressed concern about the significant increase in some categories of violent crime.

“I will continue to emphasize that we must continue to devote every resource to youth violence prevention,” Patterson said. “I am asking community groups and non-profit organizations that may be listening to this crime briefing to consider partnering with RPD.”

Intervention programs can prove effective, Patterson said.

“If you haven’t already [providing] teaching our youth gun ownership and anger management, we see a greater need for that every day,” Patterson added. “When we see 14- and 15-year-olds committing crimes, we need to have groups of people who can really to connect with them and be able to turn that around and prevent them from a life of crime.’

For Diana Powell of Justice Served NC, based in east Raleigh near College Park, the rise in crime is a sign of a community that feels left behind.

“This community has lost a lot of hope. You look around, you see gentrification,” Powell said. “We have people suffering, we have mental health problems, [and] we have people sleeping on the sidewalk.”

Patterson also said the two Raleigh officers involved in the Hedingham shooting have returned to the police force. Patterson said the investigation into Hedingham was still ongoing as of Wednesday afternoon.

WRAL News asked Patterson about how police are trying to reduce violence in the city.

“We’re a growing city,” Patterson said. “Our population is growing. A lot of people are moving to this area.”

Patterson explained how a city’s growth affects crime.

“As I said in my briefing, I think it’s naive to think that you won’t have criminal elements that are part of that growth,” Patterson said.

As of Wednesday, the Raleigh Police Department had 115 vacancies, or 15% of the total police force, Patterson said.

“It’s a fluid number,” Patterson said. “It really changes, literally every day, as we hire people or people retire or leave the organization.”

Patterson said the police department is working to address staff shortages.

In 2022, 386 weapons were stolen from cars, which is 25% more than a year earlier. For Powell, this is not surprising.

“We know that weapons are easy to get. Very easy,” Powell said. “I talk to some young people and they say it’s like going to a candy store to get a gun.”

On Wednesday, Patterson also urged people not to leave running vehicles unattended.

As for Powell, she works to keep kids out of gangs and helps 160 families who are either homeless or on the verge of homelessness through Justice Served NC.

“They see their mother struggling, and what do they turn to?” Powell said. “[They think], “I’m going to go outside here. I’m going to do it.’

“What is the result? Crime”.

Raleigh’s police chief addresses rising crime and access to firearms

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