Crime Rate Drops, Violent Offenses Up
"While it's good that North Carolina continues its overall long-term trend of falling crime rates, we should be troubled by increases in the most violent crimes," Cooper said state's 2005 crime statistics were released. "Simply put, our law enforcement needs support in stopping violent lawbreakers who rob and kill."
The overall rate per 100,000 of crime index offenses reported in North Carolina decreased 0.5 percent compared to 2004, a smaller decrease than the 2.9 percent drop the previous year.
The rate of violent crime per 100,000 North Carolinians rose 3.7 percent according to reports from law enforcement agencies from across the state. The rate fell in one violent crime category, rape, but rose for murder, robbery and aggravated assault.
While rapes were down 2.5 percent, murders increased 9.5 percent, robberies were up 6.8 percent, and aggravated assaults rose 2.7 percent.
The rate of property crimes, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft fell 1 percent statewide compared to the previous year's drop of 3.1 percent.
Reports of larceny decreased 2.9 percent, while burglary rose 2.4 percent. Motor vehicle theft increased 2.5 percent, and arson, which is not included in the overall property crime rate, climbed 6.2 percent. Adult arrests rose 5 percent, while juvenile arrests fell 3 percent.
Despite the rise in some categories of violent crime this year, North Carolina's long-term trend shows falling rates for both violent and property crimes over the past 10 years. For example, the rates of murders, rapes and robberies are all down compared to a decade ago.
North Carolina's increase in violent crime and drop in property crime reported in 2005 mirrored a trend seen by law-enforcement agencies across the country, according to the FBI, which tallies national statistics.
"Although the rates aren't as high as ten years ago, I'm concerned about this year's increase in the number of murders and robberies reported," Cooper said. "We must continue to expand law enforcement access to tools like DNA analysis that can crack cold cases and put violent criminals behind bars."
To catch more murderers and other criminals, Cooper is asking legislators for two more experts for the DNA section of the lab, which has quadrupled in size over the last few years. Cooper and the SBI expanded the convicted offender database to include all felons, and it is paying off. Searches of the database using evidence from unsolved cases has netted more cold hits in the past year than in the entire decade before the all-felons law took effect.
Thanks to increases in staff and improvements in technology, the SBI Crime Lab has also been able to use DNA analysis to work more kinds of cases including robberies and property crimes.
Cooper also has asked legislators for six new experts to analyze drug evidence submitted to the SBI Crime Lab by local law enforcement and an additional three SBI agents to fight trafficking of illegal drugs, particularly methamphetamine.
"We know that drugs are at the root of many crimes," Cooper said. "The good news is that our new law is working to cut down on dangerous secret drug labs operating here in North Carolina. The more we're able to stop criminals from making meth here, the more law enforcement will be able to focus on criminals who traffic drugs into our state."
"There are also other kinds of dangerous crimes that these numbers don't reflect, such as child predators who are stalking the Internet seeking to lure children out of their homes."
Cooper is asking legislators for more help for law enforcement to investigate and solve crimes committed by sex offenders, and is seeking to start the Sex Offender Watch program to tell the public quickly about the presence of registered sex offenders in their communities. The program would allow people to sign up to be notified by e-mail immediately when a sex offender moves into their neighborhood and use mapping to pinpoint exactly where an offender lives in relation to a neighborhood, school, day care center or business.
The North Carolina Uniform Crime Reporting Program is part of a nationwide effort administered by the FBI. Calculations for the crime statistics used population data from the NC Office of State Budget, Planning and Management.
For more information about 2005 crime statistics, go to www.ncdoj.com. Click Crime and Law Enforcement, then Crime Statistics.
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