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N.C. crime rate sees sharpest drop in 25 years

North Carolina's crime rate last year was the lowest since 1984, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Wednesday.

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Attorney General Roy Cooper
RALEIGH, N.C. — Overall crime fell about 9 percent across the state last year, and violent crime dropped by 12.5 percent – the sharpest single-year drop since 1973 and the lowest crime rate since 1984 – North Carolina's attorney general said Wednesday.

Murders were down 19.1 percent from 2008, robberies 17.6 percent and aggravated assaults 10.7 percent, according to statistics compiled by the State Bureau of Investigation.

Property crimes, such as burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft, were down overall by 8.4 percent. Vehicle thefts fell 25.8 percent, while larceny dropped 8.5 percent and burglary by 3.9 percent.

Juvenile arrests for overall crimes fell 11 percent, and adult arrests were down 3 percent.

"When you look at the numbers, they are pretty dramatic," North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said in an interview.

Cooper cited a range of potential factors that might explain the decline, including stronger laws, better technology, diligent law enforcement work and prevention efforts.

He noted that the numbers follow a recent trend of declining crime rates but acknowledged that there were no sure answers to why the crime rate would sink at a time when local budgets are being cut because of the economy.

"It's very difficult to pinpoint the causes for this," Cooper said.

Crime statistic trends vary widely across the state, with some areas, including Raleigh, reporting an increase in crime.

Raleigh authorities saw a 2 percent rise in crime while Wake County law enforcement reported a 17 percent increase. Wilmington recorded a 13 percent jump.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg reported an 18 percent drop; Asheville, Greensboro and Winston-Salem reported drops of 14 percent, 4 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

Cooper has long advocated for technological advances to help solve crime, successfully pushing legislation in 2003 that required convicted felons to submit DNA samples.

Last week, the General Assembly passed another bill Cooper backed that calls for DNA samples from anyone arrested for felony crimes. Gov. Bev Perdue is expected to sign it into law in Greenville Thursday.

Cooper said that, despite the progress in helping solve crimes, the state must also focus on prevention.

"Catching criminals and solving cases are critical, but the best way to fight crime is to prevent it from happening in the first place,” he said.

“We must continue to look for innovative ways to keep kids from turning to gangs and crime, and to keep ex-offenders from becoming repeat offenders when they leave prison.”


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