RALEIGH Crime across North Carolina fell again in 00, including an all-time low murder rate, a state of affairs that may not last in a climate of budget cutting and layoffs, Attorney General Roy Cooper warned Wednesday.
In announcing a crime rate of nearly 3,956 per 00,000 people the lowest since 9 Cooper said the training, personnel, technology and tactics that have helped achieve falling crime rates are imperiled by cuts to law enforcement at the state and local levels.
“To keep crime rates moving down, we need better budget decisions that promote public safety, not hurt it,” he said in a statement.
Specifically, Cooper pointed out that the State Bureau of Investigation will cut its budget by 9 percent and eliminate 4 positions this year, and that the Highway Patrol is facing a $0 million cut over two years, which could mean layoffs.
On top of that, federal funding in areas like methamphetamine lab site cleanup has already been cut, and the state could lose more money because the General Assembly didn’t pass legislation this year to bring the state into compliance with a federal sex offender registration law.
While the impact on local sheriff’s and police departments isn’t uniform across the state, most departments are looking at reductions in their budgets, said George Erwin Jr., executive director of the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police and a former Henderson County sheriff.
“It could have a dramatic impact on local enforcement,” Erwin said. “I’ve talked to a number of sheriffs and chiefs of police across the state, and they’re all concerned about it.”
In the short term, Erwin predicts that departments will have to pool their resources more. For example, a department that has a bomb squad may find itself loaning that out to neighboring departments that lack it. He also expects departments to turn to the private sector in some cases to help with funding.
“The sad thing is, public safety is usually the first place governments look to make cuts, whether federal, state or local,” he said.
For now, though, the latest statewide crime figures provide Cooper and other law enforcement officials with reason to be glad.
Overall crime dropped 5.6 percent from 009, with the violent crime rate plunging by 0. percent. The murder rate, 5. per 00,000 people, was the lowest it’s been since the state started keeping records in 93. The rates of rape and robbery also dropped sharply, with the latter seeing a reduction by nearly 0 percent. The most common offenses were property crimes, with larceny the most frequently reported overall.
Crime was down across the state, with most major metropolitan areas recording a decrease except for Cary and Gaston County, which saw increases, and Asheville, which was unchanged from 009. Five cities Charlotte, Concord, Greensboro, Greenville and Rocky Mount saw double-digit drops in crime.
The decline here parallels the drop nationwide, with the FBI reporting earlier this year that the national violent crime rate fell in 00 by 5.5 percent, and the property crime rate by . percent.
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