How safe is our county?

Rutherford's crime rate continues to improve
Sep. 07, 2013 @ 04:28 AM

Rutherford County's overall crime rate fell again last year, as did the county's violent crime rate and property crime rate, according to 2012 crime data released by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) as part of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, a nationwide effort administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The overall rate of criminal offenses per 100,000 persons in Rutherford decreased by 2.8 percent compared to 2011.

The rate of violent crimes in Rutherford — murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — dropped by 33.9 percent according to reports submitted to the SBI from law enforcement agencies across the state. This is the lowest violent crime rate the county has had since 2003.

Among violent crimes, all four categories recorded decreases in the county. The rape, robbery and aggravated assault rates are the lowest recorded since 2003.

The rate of property crime in Rutherford — burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft — decreased by 0.4 percent according to the reports. Among property crimes, larceny and motor vehicle theft rates decreased while the burglary rate increased again. The burglary rate is the highest recorded since 2003.

The rate of arson, which is not included in the overall crime rate, also dropped across the county.

"Looking at the statistics, both state and county-wide, I'm not surprised to see that the crime rates are going down due to the efforts of law enforcement agencies," said Rutherford County Sheriff Chris Francis. "One positive trend I've seen that has helped decrease the number of crimes is the use of technology by law enforcement."

According to Francis, technology such as NCAWARE (North Carolina Automated Warrant Repository), a statewide warrant system utilized by officers to check warrants, and CJLEADS (Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data Services), a database with investigative tools to keep up with repeat offenders, have helped officers to maintain and track criminal processes and offender information and have lead to more arrests.

Additionally, the sharing of information with other law enforcement agencies through technology like Nixle and NCISAAC (North Carolina's Information Sharing and Analysis Center) have helped officers to identify crime trends and locate perpetrators.

"The decreasing rates are not because offenders are slacking, but because of the persistence of law enforcement and utilization of these technologies," Francis said.

While North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper welcomed the decreasing crime rates, he remained concerned that reduced budgets and upper income tax cuts mean law enforcement will not get the resources necessary to continue fighting emerging crime trends.

"When you ask people how they want their tax dollars invested, public safety ranks very high on the list," Cooper said, in a statement on Thursday. "We must invest in well-trained officers and modern crime fighting tools and if we don't, I'm concerned that public safety will pay the price."

Statewide, the overall rate of criminal offenses dropped last year, marking the fourth year in a row that North Carolina has seen its lowest crime rate in decades and continuing the state's long-term trend of falling crime rates.

The overall rate of criminal offenses per 100,000 persons in North Carolina decreased by 4.4 percent compared to 2011 and is the state's lowest rate since 1976.

However, the violent crime rate rose slightly last year. According to reports submitted to the SBI, the rate of violent crimes statewide rose by 0.6 percent. Among violent crime rates, murder, rape and robbery dropped while aggravated assault saw an increase statewide.

The rate of property crime in North Carolina dropped by 4.9 percent according to the reports. Among property crimes, all three categories recorded decreases.

The rate of arson rose slightly across the state.

Among the challenges Cooper sees are crimes not included in the index crime rate that continue to grow. These include prescription drug abuse, the spread of meth labs and online child pornography and exploitation.

"A growing state needs to put more cops on the street, more investigators in the field and more scientists in the crime lab," Cooper said, "but we cannot do that if we don't adequately fund law enforcement."

In order to keep up with needs of the criminal justice system, Cooper will recommend the state invest in the overburdened State Crime Lab, which recorded a 15 percent increase in case submissions for fiscal year 2011-12.

The lab currently has 124 forensic scientists working cases for the entire state. While funding to hire 19 new toxicologists will help, the latest state budget includes no money for additional DNA analysts despite a 64 percent increase in DNA submissions over five years.

"Crime Lab scientists are working more efficiently and putting in longer hours than ever before but there just aren't enough of them to meet the demand," Cooper said. "Giving law enforcement and the courts faster access to forensic science without sacrificing quality requires more resources."

To provide quicker access to crime data, the SBI is currently using grant funds to develop a new crime reporting system that will track more types of crimes, provide crime rates monthly and give law enforcement access to real-time data and crime mapping to help identify trends and link cases. The new system is expected to be operational in 2014.

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BREAKOUT NO. 2:

Where Rutherford ranks on crime:

(per 100,000 persons)

Overall Crime Rate

2012: 3,425.9

2011: 3,523.6

Percent Change: -2.8%

Violent Crime Rate

2012: 164.0

2011: 248.1

Percent Change: -33.9%

Property Crime Rate

2012: 3,261.9

2011: 3,275.5

Percent Change: -0.4%

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BREAKOUT NO. 3:

Where North Carolina ranks on crime:

(per 100,000 persons)

Overall Crime Rate

2012: 3,767.2

2011: 3,942.2

Percent Change: -4.4%

Violent Crime Rate

2012: 358.6

2011: 356.6

Percent Change: +0.6%

Property Crime Rate

2012: 3,408.6

2011: 3,585.6

Percent Change: -4.9%