North Carolina’s overall crime rate fell again last year while the violent crime rate rose slightly, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today.
The Attorney General welcomed continuing lower crime rates but said he’s worried that reduced budgets and upper income tax cuts mean law enforcement isn’t getting the resources needed to fight emerging crime trends.
“When you ask people how they want their tax dollars invested, public safety ranks very high on the list,” Cooper said. “We must invest in well-trained officers and modern crime fighting tools and if we don’t I’m concerned that public safety will pay the price.”
The overall rate of index crime per 100,000 persons in North Carolina decreased by 4.4 percent compared to 2011 and is the state’s lowest since 1976. The rate of violent crime per 100,000 North Carolinians rose 0.6 percent according to reports submitted to the State Bureau of Investigation from law enforcement agencies across the state. Among violent crime rates, rape decreased 1 percent, robbery dropped 3 percent and murder decreased 3.8 percent, while aggravated assault rose 2.4 percent.
The rate of property crimes—burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft—decreased by 4.9 percent statewide. The larceny rate fell 3.4 percent, the motor vehicle theft rate fell 5.8 percent, and the burglary rate fell 7.9. The rate of arson, which is not included in the overall crime rate, rose by 1.6 percent.
Juvenile arrests for index crime offenses are down 12 percent, while adult arrests for those offenses remain unchanged from 2011. Juvenile arrests for all crimes are also down 12 percent, while adult arrests for all crimes are down 1 percent.
This marks the fourth year in a row that North Carolina has seen its lowest crime rate in decades and continues the state’s long-term trend of falling crime rates. Compared to a decade ago, the overall crime rate is down 20.3 percent and the rate of violent crime is down 21.4 percent.
However, Cooper is concerned that North Carolina won’t be able to continue that trend if it doesn’t devote sufficient resources to law enforcement.
“A growing state needs to put more cops on the street, more investigators in the field, and more scientists in the crime lab, but we cannot do that if we don’t adequately fund law enforcement,” Cooper said.
Among the challenges Cooper cited are crimes not included in the index crime rate that continue to grow:
· State Bureau of Investigation agents raided a record number of meth labs in the state last year (460) as the simpler, one-pot method for making small amounts of the drug continued to spread.
· Prescription drug abuse now kills more people than illegal drug use in North Carolina, with more than 1,100 North Carolinians dying from prescription drug overdoses last year.
· Cybertips of possible online child pornography and exploitation reported to the SBI’s Computer Crimes Unit by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have more than tripled in the past two years.
Cooper also pointed to the overburdened State Crime Lab, which saw a 15 percent increase in case submissions to more than 42,000 for fiscal year 2011/2012, as an area where the state needs to invest to keep up with needs of the criminal justice system. The Lab currently has 124 forensic scientists working cases for the entire state. Funding to hire 19 new toxicologists will help, but the latest state budget includes no money for additional DNA analysts despite a 64 percent increase in DNA submissions over five years.
“Crime Lab scientists are working more efficiently and putting in longer hours than ever before but there just aren’t enough of them to meet the demand,” Cooper said. “Giving law enforcement and the courts faster access to forensic science without sacrificing quality requires more resources.”
North Carolina crime statistics are provided by the SBI as part of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, a nationwide effort administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
To provide quicker access to crime data, the SBI is currently using grant funds to develop a new crime reporting system that will track more types of crimes, provide crime rates monthly, and give law enforcement access to real-time data and crime mapping to help identify trends and link cases. The new system is expected to be operational in 2014.
For more information about 2012 crime statistics, go to www.ncdoj.gov. Click “Crime,” then “View Crime Statistics.” To view or print a summary of 2012 crime statistics, click “2012 Annual Summary.” More detailed statistics will be available online in the coming days.