State News

State data show assaults on police on the decline in NC

Posted July 12, 2016

Despite the horror of the sniper attack that claimed the lives of five Dallas police officers last week, assaults on law enforcement officers are rare and, in North Carolina, have dropped over the past decade.

Yet it can still be a dangerous job: some of the state's largest law enforcement agencies track hundreds of assaults annually.

In its annual crime reporting data, the State Bureau of Investigation tracks scores of key statistics on arrests and offenses, as well as assaults on officers. The most recent report, from the year 2014, shows these assaults are on a downward trend, even as the number of officers on the beat has grown.

Largest number of assaults by agency

Unsurprisingly, the agencies suffering the most assaults are those that serve some of the state's largest metropolitan areas.

The top 5 in 2014, for example, include police departments in Charlotte, Raleigh, Winston-Salem and Wilmington. In all of these cases, the vast majority of assaults are attacks from hands and feet rather than firearms, which made up about 7 percent of assaults in Charlotte in 2014.

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Highest rates of assault by population

When adjusted for population, however, there's a lot more variation in the top 10 from year to year.

The figures below show assault rates per 10,000 people, adjusted for the size of the population each agency serves. Smaller agencies that serve fewer than 1,000 people were omitted, since their relatively small number of assaults can skew the comparison.

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Statewide, assaults have fallen amid growth of police ranks

Although the total number of assaults reported on officers since 2004 has decreased overall, the drop is slightly more dramatic when accounting for the increase in the number of sworn officers patrolling the streets.

Reporting through this program is optional, so this count includes the almost 400 agencies statewide that reported assault and personnel data for the entire 10-year period.

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Not all agencies seeing decline

Defying the statewide trend, there are agencies that have seen an increase in assaults on officers over the past decade. Among the state's 100 largest agencies that consistently reported over the 10-year period, the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office has seen the sharpest rise in those assaults relative to its about 100-officer force since 2004.

The agency is followed by Duke University, which saw eight officer assaults in 2014 for their 56 sworn officers.

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Lincoln Co. Sheriff

Find your agency's assault data

Search the hundreds of law enforcement agencies who at least periodically report assaults and personnel information to the SBI, by total number of assaults and assaults per 100 officers. Years with no data indicate missing reports.

METHODOLOGY: WRAL News analyzed data from the SBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program on law enforcement personnel and law enforcement officers assaulted. The most recent report was from the year 2014.

The data was collected using automated scripts on July 8, 2016.

Agencies are not required to report to the program, and in many cases the failure to report will mean gaps in the data. If an agency is listed in the UCR program as "reporting" for a given year but had no assault data, the number of assaults were assumed to be zero. Agencies not listed as "reporting" for every one of the years in the 10-year period were not included in the analysis of statewide assault figures to allow for consistent comparisons.

Analysis of the sharpest increase in assaults per agency, adjusted for the number of sworn officers, was completed by calculating and comparing the slope of the best fit line for the 10-year period using the least squares method. Only the 100 largest consistently reporting agencies were compared to account for the skewing effect of smaller police forces.

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  • Matt Nickeson Jul 13, 2016
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    I wonder if there has been a change in the seriousness of the assaults? An assault (I will assume they mean battery) can mean anything from unwanted touching to causing serious physical injury. I don't know the answer but that would be kind of important in analyzing this.