I have lived in Baltimore, West Virginia, Chapel Hill and Durham and I have to say that although each has it's own flavor, they all have areas that are perfectly fine places to live. Crime was lowest across the board in West Virginia, easily the highest in Baltimore but (statistics or not) I have no personal experience of crime in any place but Baltimore. Every place has a 'bad part of town' but they all have great parts.
I live in Durham now, in the north end of the city and I feel as safe here as anywhere I've ever lived.
More than that... this is a nice place. People are courteous & friendly. There are lots (I mean lots & lots) of things to do, the restaurant scene is vibrant and varied, the dance, film & art venues are busy and classy and the downtown is, right now, absolutly exploding with new & exciting things like the new ballpark, the new condo/loft residential West Village (renovated tobacco warehouses) and a new Arts Center - to be a large venue stage complimenting the existing Carolina Theatre (restored ornate 20's theatre).
The town is easy to navigate, there's plenty of shopping, the schools are innovative and excel in Math & Science and the Creative Arts. Durham has plenty of water (check other local towns), a balanced budget, steady controlled growth, a very vibrant ethnic mix, lots of green space and room for more.
Merck believes in Durham (huge new plant) and so do lots of other relocating companies. And so do I. Durham is still a little before the curve, just a little and I'll bet'cha that in 10 years there will be a lot of investors kicking themselves that they didn't get in sooner... I don't think we'll ever be a San Francisco but a lot of the 'creative ferment' that makes a place really hum is here. Humming away in Durham!
Oh ... and it is affordable with plenty of nice homes in the 'under 200,000' price range and lots of good jobs in the computer, high-tech and medical fields. Come for a visit and you'll probably stay.