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By David Leone
WAKE FOREST — The death of Trayvon Martin. Sexual assaults at UNC. Women held hostage for years in Cleveland.
Access to the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle has made Americans hyper-aware of crime occurring nationwide, but that doesn’t reflect either national or state trends.
Nationwide, crime has been dropping since the 1990s, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. In North Carolina, numbers of crimes are at historic lows, according to new figures released by the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI).
The low crime rate prompted Ryan Minto and his wife to settle on Wake Forest in their move to North Carolina from Washington D.C. this July.
“We just bought a house here. That played a big part in our decision,” he said. “We used Trulia and Zillow to look for houses and Trulia they have a crime map. And all of Wake Forest is all green, which means very low crime. That played quite a big part of it.”
Though there was a 0.6 percent uptick in violent crimes between 2011 and 2012 statewide, overall crime fell 4.4 percent between the two years.
Compared to a decade ago, the overall state crime rate is down 20.3 percent and the rate of violent crime is down 21.4 percent. Local jurisdictions report similar trends, though the numbers vary by community.
Rolesville has seen a dramatic drop in crime rates in the past decade, down 36 percent overall and 68 percent in violent crime since 2003. Between 2011 and 2012, the town saw a rise in both property and violent crimes, however.
Wake Forest’s overall crime rate has dropped 22 percent since 2005, the earliest figure available for direct comparison. Violent crimes have fluctuated in that period, having reached a high in 2007. Both overall crime and violent crime in Wake Forest saw a slight rise since 2011.
While the total number of crimes is up a degree in Franklin County, the rates reported by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the towns of Franklinton, Youngsville and Louisburg are all down, percentage-wise. The Sheriff’s Office reports an 8.8 percent drop in overall crime, though violent crime hit a 10-year high in 2012 in the county, up 149 percent from 2003 and up 40 percent since 2011 alone.
Franklinton accounted for a chunk of that, with violent crime at a 10-year-high, up 145 percent since 2003 and 215 percent since 2011. Franklinton police also provided data for other crimes, noting there were 110 total arrests in 2012. The largest number (39) were for impaired driving.
In Franklin County aggregate, crime fell 12.2 percent in a decade and violent crime rose 53 percent in that same stretch. In that same 10-year period, the tracked crimes in Louisburg were more than halved, with most of those gains being made in reduced property crimes.
In both the past decade and the past year, crime is lower among Wake County municipalities and as reported by the Wake County Sheriff’s Office. Wake County’s decrease is significant, with more than a 30 percent drop in overall crime and 33.7 percent drop in violent crime in that same period.
Violent crimes are slightly up in Wake County since 2011, however.
Burglaries seldom solved
One of the most telling statistics appears on charts detailing police agencies’ effectiveness at clearing or solving crimes. A crime is considered cleared when an arrest is made.
In 2011-12 Wake Forest police cleared both murders, two of three rapes, 51 of 65 aggravated assaults, and 15 of 24 robberies. In 2012, town police had a 70 percent-plus success rate at solving all violent crimes.
But property crimes seldom see such success.
In 2011-12, Wake Forest police cleared just 34 of 217 burglaries, 454 of 1,160 larcenies, and nine of 35 motor vehicle thefts.
That trend bears out with other area departments.
In 2011-12, Youngsville police solved half of its 10 burglaries, 20 of its 46 larcenies and solved its sole vehicle theft in 2011.
In Rolesville, 22 of 116 burglaries and 32 of 93 larcenies were solved in 2011-12, while all but two of 12 aggravated assaults were solved for that same period.
Other local towns reported similar rates of success.
With the exception of rapes in 2011 (one in eight was solved), Franklin County Sheriff’s deputies cleared a majority of its violent crimes. Not so with property crimes. In 2011-12, 108 out of 891 burglaries were cleared, 144 of 1,072 larcenies and 38 of 138 vehicle thefts.
The Wake County Sheriff’s Office reported similar success, solving 19-22 percent of all of its property crimes over the past two years. Sheriff’s investigators fared better with murder cases, clearing all of its six reported murders and solving two others.
Other statewide data is kept, including age, gender and race of offenders. Most crimes overall are committed by men. Men committed 99.1 percent of forcible rapes, 93.1 percent of other sex offenses, 89.4 percent of robberies, 92 percent of murders, 86.1 percent of burglaries and 84.4 percent of vehicle thefts.
Men were responsible for 76.8 percent of impaired driving cases, 90.6 percent of weapons offenses and 84.4 percent of vagrancies.
The only crimes women were arrested more than men for is prostitution or other commercialized vice (65.3 percent of arrests) and embezzlement (51.4 percent). Girls were slightly more likely than boys to run away from home (50.9 percent).
Women were charged with 43.3 percent of general fraud cases, 41.4 percent of forgeries or counterfeiting and 34.1 percent of property crimes. Women committed only 20.4 percent of violent crimes and 27.2 percent of all crimes statewide.
Though crimes are spread out among all age groups, data shows that youths are involved in crimes that might surprise some adults.
Statewide, children 10 and under committed five forcible rapes in 2012, six other sex offenses, 24 aggravated assaults, six arsons and 39 breaking and entering cases. They were responsible for 200 weapons violations, 75 acts of vandalism, four marijuana arrests, three impaired driving cases and 46 drunk and disorderly calls.
In 2012, youths ages 11-15 committed eight murders, 20 forcible rapes, 87 other sex offenses, 145 robberies, 321 aggravated assaults, 50 vehicle thefts and 750 breaking and entering cases.
They were responsible for 50 cases of arson, two cases of prostitution, 673 incidences of marijuana possession, 16 cases of cocaine or opiate possession, 59 other dangerous drug possessions, 46 attempts to manufacture or sell marijuana, 41 impaired driving cases, 196 liquor law violations and 1,631 drunk and disorderly incidences.
People ages 65 and older were statewide in 2012 responsible for 210 aggravated assaults, 725 impaired driving cases, 57 sex offenses, 44 acts of vandalism, and 706 cases of negligent manslaughter.
Crimes by race
The largest number of crimes in North Carolina are committed by whites (including hispanics), closely followed by African Americans. Native Americans and Asians committed 2.2 percent of crimes statewide.
In 2012, whites were charged with 29,329 of 54,206 larcenies, 30,015 of 58,365 non-aggravated assaults, 214 of 380 arsons, 9,228 of 16,038 cases of fraud, 4,223 of 8,272 vandalism incidences, 1,044 of 1,733 sex offenses and 35,483 of 49,489 cases of impaired driving.
Also in 2012, blacks were arrested for 367 of the state’s 575 murder and negligent manslaughter cases, 2,937 of the 3,994 robberies, 7,540 of the 14,806 aggravated assaults, 2,264 of 3,218 incidences of manufacturing/selling of cocaine or opiates and 2,311 incidences of manufacturing/selling marijuana.
Only data on select crimes is submitted to the state by local agencies. Further detail on crimes for Wake and Franklin sheriffs' offices, the city of Raleigh, and town departments in Wake Forest, Rolesville, Youngsville, Franklinton, Louisburg, Bunn and Lake Royale is all available at tiny.cc/2012NCcrimes.
Choose the year and click “submit” for the departmental charts and summaries.
Meth labs rising
In a release, Attorney General Roy Cooper welcomed continuing reductions in crime rates but said he’s worried that smaller budgets and tax cuts mean law enforcement won’t continue 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.”
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 the state, with more than 1,100 North Carolinians dying from prescription drug overdoses last year.
•Cybertips for 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 is also concerned that the state crime lab is becoming overburdened. It saw a 15 percent increase in case submissions for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
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.