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AG's Office: Economic Slowdown Linked To Increase In Robbery, Property Crime

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Crime report rates across North Carolina rose by 1.5 percent last year as the state's economy took a downturn, only the second time in 10 years that the rates have gone up, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced Monday.

"When the economy cools, criminal activity tends to heat up," Cooper said. "More North Carolinians were victims of theft and burglaries last year than the year before, and if more jobs are lost the trend could continue. As the economy begins to recover, we hope to see these numbers decline again to continue our decade-long drop in crime rates in North Carolina."

The rate per 100,000 of crime index offenses reported in North Carolina rose by 1.5 percent compared to 2000. According to law enforcement agencies across the state, the rate of violent crime per 100,000 North Carolinians climbed by 0.7 percent. The rates fell in three violent crime categories -- murder, rape, and aggravated assault -- but the rate rose for robbery. Murders were down 8.5 percent, rapes dropped 2.3 percent, and aggravated assaults decreased 1.3 percent, while robberies were up 5.5 percent.

The rate of property crimes -- burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft -- increased 1.6 percent statewide. Motor vehicle thefts decreased 2.9 percent, while burglaries rose 3.3 percent and reports of larceny increased 1.4 percent.

Juvenile crime rates also rose slightly, by one percent, while adult arrests climbed 7 percent. Calculations used the 2000 Census figures, the most recent available.

"The good news is that strong law enforcement and stricter sentences for violent criminals are helping. Murders, rapes and assaults are all down," said Cooper. "With a slowing economy, it is no surprise that robbery and non-violent property crimes are up. We need to make sure that law enforcement has the tools it needs to keep our state safe, especially during these tough times."

Among the most pressing needs are more funding for DNA analysis of rape kits and for efforts to bust clandestine drug labs.

"Reports of rapes may be down, but we've got a backlog of rape kits waiting to be processed. The horrible truth is that the SBI has the technology and know-how to analyze these kits, but it takes money and manpower we just don't have," said Cooper. "We're also dealing with a sharp increase in clan drug labs here in North Carolina over the last 3 to 4 years, with an upturn in the first few months of this year."

The SBI is investigating more clandestine drug labs producing harmful drugs like methamphetamine, Ecstasy and date rape drugs than ever before. Statistics from 2001 show a 145 percent increase in clan lab activity from 2000 to 2001 on top of an 80 percent increase from 1999 to 2000. Numbers for clan lab busts thus far in 2002 put us on track for a 140 percent increase over 2001.

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