RALEIGH — The overall crime rate in North Carolina declined for the fifth year in a row in 2012, to the lowest level since 1976, lead by a double-digit drop in juvenile crime, according to a report released Thursday by the state Department of Justice.
Juvenile crime fell by 12 percent last year, continuing a five-year trend that has seen the number of arrests among juveniles under age 18 drop by 30 percent since 2008. The overall crime rate decreased 4.4 percent last year, though the rate of violent crime ticked up slightly.
No one factor has caused the drop in juvenile crime, said James Buddy Howell, a criminologist in Pinehurst who founded a group that works with states to reform their juvenile justice systems.
The overall decrease, particularly with violent crime, is part of the continuum of prevention, diversion, court services and community programs that are targeting high-risk kids in North Carolina, Howell said. That has certainly contributed to the reduction in violence.
State Attorney General Roy Cooper agreed.
I think youre seeing efforts to help young people stay out of trouble pay off, including work by juvenile crime prevention councils and by community groups such as the Boys and Girls Clubs and our own Badges for Baseball program, Cooper said Thursday. I also believe that putting school resource officers in many of our schools has had a positive effect, deterring school violence and also giving students a place to report problems and a connection with law enforcement.
The crime data are based on reports of seven so-called index crimes: homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson. Arrests among adults 18 and older for those crimes increased less than 1 percent, according to the report.
The crime rate in North Carolina has been falling for years. Compared to a decade ago, the overall crime rate is down 20.3 percent, and the rate of violent crime is down 21.4 percent, according to the report.
Specifically, the homicide rate in North Carolina dropped 3.8 percent from 2011 to 2012, while burglaries were down 7.9 percent and motor vehicle thefts declined 5.8 percent. Of the seven categories of crime that make up the crime index, only arson and aggravated assault went up.
In the Triangle, Durham police reported an 8-percent decrease in the overall number of crimes; Cary police reported a 9-percent decline, while Raleigh police had a 4 percent increase, partly a factor of a growing population, according to police spokesman Jim Sughrue. The Wake County Sheriffs Office reported 15 percent fewer index crimes, and Johnston County saw a 7-percent decline.
Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez credited the drop in overall crime in the city to new crime-fighting strategies. He said the 15.2-percent decrease in burglaries, for example, was partly a result of a community policing initiative called the Residential Awareness Program, or RAP.
Our officers visit the neighborhoods, speak to the residents, tell them what to watch out for, and they call us, Lopez said.
Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said the countys 15-percent drop in crime is partly a result of shifting the work hours of his deputies, to make them more visible.
We have more deputies working during peak hours, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Harrison said.
The report shows that crime is not limited to urban areas. The county with the highest overall crime rate was Vance, north of Raleigh on the Virginia border, fueled mainly by the states highest property crime rate of 6,576.2 per 100,000 residents. Robeson County, with a population of 129,000, had the states highest violent crime rate, at 809.5, more than three times the violent crime rate in Wake County last year.
Many rural areas struggle with high rates of unemployment and poverty, which can lead to more crime, Cooper said Thursday.
These areas may also have fewer resources to invest in fighting crime, he said. We also see more domestic violence in some rural areas, which can contribute to higher violent crime rates. And some of this could be crime fueled by drug traffickers who set up shop in rural areas where law enforcement agencies have fewer officers and resources in order to try to avoid detection.