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Attorney General Cooper announces drop in crime rate

Release date: 9/6/2005

Violent and property crime rates decline, but reports of rape increase

Raleigh: Reports of crime across North Carolina fell by 2.9 percent last year thanks to strong law enforcement and tough sentences, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today.

“Our hard work to keep North Carolina safe is showing progress,” said Cooper. “The numbers show that law enforcement is doing a good job to reduce crime rates even as our state grows.”

The rate per 100,000 of crime index offenses reported in North Carolina decreased by 2.9 percent compared to 2003, a slightly greater increase than the 2.4 percent drop the previous year. The rate of violent crime per 100,000 North Carolinians dropped by 1.7 percent according to law enforcement agencies from across the state. While the murder rate went unchanged, robberies fell 5.8 percent, and aggravated assaults decreased 0.5 percent. However, incidents of rape increased 7.5 percent.

The rate of property crimes—burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft—fell 3.1 percent statewide, a percentage point greater than last year’s drop of 2.1 percent. Reports of burglary declined 1.1 percent and larceny decreased 4.3 percent. Motor vehicle theft increased 0.3 percent, and arson, which is not included in the overall property crime rate, rose by 4.4 percent.

“There’s still work we need to do to make our communities safe, and I am particularly concerned about the increase in the number of reported rapes,” cautioned Cooper. “We must continue to expand DNA technology and put these violent criminals behind bars before they repeat their crimes.”

The increase in the number of reported rapes in North Carolina was similar to increases across the South in 2004, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation which tallies national statistics. Sexual assault crimes are regularly underreported, according to advocacy groups and law enforcement, so increases in the number could reflect more accurate reporting as well as more assaults.

Now available to sexual assault victims who know their attackers is help in the civil courts to keep the perpetrator away. Called a 50-C, the protective order would prohibit contact with the victim by an assailant or stalker.

To catch rapists and other criminals Cooper is keeping up his push to expand the use of DNA technology. Cooper and the SBI worked to expand the convicted offender database and it has paid off, netting about seven hits for every one thousand convicted offender samples uploaded into the system. Cooper won seven more positions this year to work on strengthening the database.

“There are also new and dangerous crimes which these numbers don’t reflect,” said Cooper. “Child predators are stalking our children on the Internet while methamphetamine production and use endangers our communities and families.”

Cooper has worked with the General Assembly to increase the penalties for predators who are caught online trying to lure children and established a Child Internet Safety Initiative to help parents and teachers prevent these incidents from happening. Additionally the General Assembly has awarded four new agents to the SBI to work on Computer Crimes and Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force cases.

Cooper is also continuing to focus on reducing the number of methamphetamine labs and expanding the SBI’s ability to use cutting edge science to help local law enforcement solve crimes. This year Cooper championed a new law to cut off meth makers’ ability to get the key ingredient pseudoephedrine, which is needed to make meth. Additionally Cooper won eight state crime lab positions to help in testing meth coming out of busted drug labs. In 1999, the first year that meth labs were reported in North Carolina, SBI agents discovered 9 labs. That number has exploded, with agents shutting down 322 labs in 2004 and 251 labs so far in 2005.

Experiences in other states such as Arizona and Missouri have shown correlation between growing meth use and a crime rate increase, especially in property crimes such as auto theft and burglary. A recent survey of 500 law-enforcement agencies by the National Association of Counties finds that 87 percent have seen increases in meth-related arrests in the past three years. County sheriffs here and across the country now say meth is their main drug problem, connected to increases in robberies, burglaries, domestic violence, assaults, identity thefts, and child neglect.

“We’re pushing back against the criminals by aggressively shutting down the labs and making it harder for the crooks to get the supplies they use to cook this toxic drug,” said Cooper. “Now we must concentrate on fighting meth trafficking as well.”

Calculations for the crime statistics used population data from the NC Office of State Budget, Planning and Management. For more information about 2004 crime statistics, go to . Click “Crime and Law Enforcement,” then “Crime Statistics.” To view or print a summary of 2003 crime statistics, click “Annual Summary Report.” See “Offenses and Clearances by Agency” for other useful statistics broken down by region.