RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina's homicide rate was up 5.9 percent last year over 2010, but the rate for all violent crimes and the overall crime rate were down, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Thursday.
Reports of crime statewide fell by 0.9 percent in 2011, making it North Carolina's lowest crime rate since 1977, Cooper said. The violent crime rate dropped by 5.2 percent during the year.
The state has a long-term trend of falling crime rates and has now set records three straight years, but Cooper expressed concern that successive years of budget cuts will make it harder for law enforcement to do its job, especially as the state battles a surge in some crimes that aren’t included in the index crime rate, such as methamphetamine labs, prescription drug abuse and child pornography and exploitation.
"(We need) more DNA scientists, more computer forensic experts, drug toxicologists, and SBI agents," Cooper said at a news conference. "Local law enforcement joined with us to ask legislators to do just that, but they refused and instead cut public safety statewide."
Funding to the state Department of Public Safety and Department of Justice was cut by a combined $30 million in this year's budget, he said.
The state compiles annual crime statistics based on data provided by local law enforcement agencies across North Carolina.
In 2011, there were 3,920 crimes reported per 100,000 residents in North Carolina, compared with 3,955 per 100,000 residents the preceding year. The rate of violent crimes dropped from 374 to 355 per 100,000 residents, while property crimes went from 3,581 to 3,565 per 100,000 residents.
Homicides were the notable exception to the drop in crimes. Last year, there were 5.4 killings per 100,000 residents, up from 5.1 in 2010 – the lowest homicide rate since statewide record keeping started in 1973.
In the Triangle, crime was up 2 percent in Raleigh last year, fueled by a spike in property crimes like larceny and motor vehicle theft. Cary's crime rate dropped by 1 percent, and crime in Durham was flat from 2010.
The crime rates in Fayetteville and Rocky Mount each rose 2 percent last year.
Wake County's crime rate was up 6 percent in 2011 – property crimes were the driving factor – while Johnston County's rate showed a 1 percent increase.