Raleigh, N.C. — The crime rate in North Carolina last year fell to the lowest level since 1977, the state Attorney General's Office announced Wednesday. Property crime pushed up crime rates in Cary and Wake County, while the rates fell in other Triangle communities, Fayetteville and Rocky Mount.
The overall rate of crime per 100,000 people in North Carolina fell by 5.6 percent from 2009 to 2010, while violent crime dropped 10.2 percent, and property crime went down 5.3 percent. That's based on data submitted by law enforcement agencies across North Carolina to the State Bureau of Investigation.
The murder rate fell to 5.1 per 100,000 people, down 7.3 percent from the year before. That's the lowest rate since statewide record keeping began in 1973.
The crime rate fell by 1 percent in the city of Durham, 7 percent in Raleigh, 8 percent in Fayetteville and 12 percent in Rocky Mount.
Crime rose by 8 percent in Cary, largely driven by a 12 percent increase in burglaries and 8.5 percent rise in larcenies.
Crime reported by the Wake County Sheriff's Office rose 5 percent, propelled by a 17 percent increase in larcenies. Property crimes also pushed up the crime rate in Person County by 2.6 percent.
Populous counties also posted declining crime rates:
- Wake County (includes Cary, Raleigh and other towns): 6.6 percent fall, to 2,836.6 crimes per 100,000 people
- Durham County: 5.3 percent fall, to 5,582.5 crimes per 100,000 people
- Cumberland County: 16.5 percent fall, to 6,331.9 crimes per 100,000 people
- Orange County: 5.2 percent fall, to 2,975.7 crimes per 100,000 people
- Johnston County: 7.4 percent, to 2,935.2 crimes per 100,000 people
Chatham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Halifax, Lenoir, Moore, Nash Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland also saw falling crime rates.
Crime rose in four other area counties: Hoke County (28.9 percent), Vance County (16.5 percent), Wayne County (3.5 percent) and Wilson County (1.5 percent).
The overall crime rate in North Carolina has plummeted by nearly 21 percent over the past decade, from 5,005.1 crimes per 100,000 people in 2001 to 3,995.7 in 2010. At the same time, the state's population increased by 14.25 percent.
Attorney General Roy Cooper attributed the decrease to hiring more DNA analysts, expanding the DNA database, creating a computer crimes unit to investigate child pornography and adding space and staff to crime labs across the state. He decried recent budget cuts to state agencies involved in crime fighting.
"A falling crime rate means North Carolina is safer, but if we stop investing in public safety, we risk falling behind," Cooper said in a statement Wednesday.
Two growing categories of crime – methamphetamine and prescription drug abuse and fraud – aren't included in the crime rate index, Cooper cautioned.
Meth lab busts went up from 206 in 2009 to 235 a year later.
The state Bureau of Investigating is handling 75 percent more cases of prescription drug fraud by health care professionals, and young people are increasingly abusing painkillers and stimulates, resulting in overdose deaths, Cooper said.