After logging a 14-year low in 2013, Durham has experienced a 36 percent increase in violent crime in the first quarter of 2014, largely because of a wave of aggravated assaults.

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez, who delivered his quarterly report to the City Council Monday night, called the people responsible for shooting into crowds and occupied houses, “cowards.” He added that aggravated assaults, which generally involve a weapon and inflict serious injury on the victim, are a “high priority for the department.”

From January to March, there were 176 incidents and 254 victims of aggravated assault, although not all of those were associated with shots fired into crowded areas.

“What is your strategy? What do you do now to get a handle on this?” asked Councilman Steve Schewel.

Lopez told Council many of these assaults have a “retaliatory aspect,” and officers are working to identify the people involved, “the argument, the group, the gang, the family” and then discuss the issues with them.

There have also been seven murders, compared with eight at this time in 2013.

Reported rapes have decreased 17 percent.

An increase in burglaries and larcenies have resulted in an overall 10 percent uptick in property crime. For example, there have been 877 burglaries, up 23 percent from last year’s figure of 712.

Car thefts, however, are down by 19 percent.

“We’re not off to a good start,” Mayor Bill Bell said. “I say that not just to you [Chief Lopez] but the community.”

DPD posts its quarterly crime reports on its website.