Crime rate battle wavers

Published 6:18 pm Friday, July 13, 2012

Although North Carolina’s 2011 crime rate is the lowest it’s been since 1977, Beaufort County’s crime rates and Washington’s crime rates varied according to classification, noted a report from N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office.

The overall rate of index crimes per 100,000 people in North Carolina fell 0.9 percent from 2010 to 2011, the report notes. The rate of violent crimes statewide fell 5.2 percent from 2010 to 2011. The rate of property crimes statewide declined 0.6 percent from 2010 to 2011.

Beaufort County’s index crime rate increased from 3,267.6 (crime rates per 100,000 people) in 2010 to 3,474.3 in 2011. The county’s violent crime rate fell from 386.6 in 2010 to 314.3 in 2011. The county’s property crime rate increased from 2,881.1 in 2010 to 3,159,9.

Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Property crimes include burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

“I think we can theorize that the increase in property-crime numbers as well as the general-index crime numbers may be related to the economic situation, but we want to keep in mind that these are numbers generated from reported crimes, not so much soft crimes or actual crimes,” said Maj. Kenneth Watson with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office on Friday.

Watson addressed the decline in the rate of violent crimes.

“The reduction in violent crime is probably the most important aspect of that report because it’s one that impacts the safety and security of the entire county and citizens across the county,” Watson said. “That’s definitely a trend that we’d like to see continue, and as far as follow up and investigation of violent crimes, that’s one thing we continue to prioritize because of the importance it plays toward the safety and security of Beaufort County citizens.”

In Washington, the index crime rate increased from 6,377.8 in 2010 to 7,680.5 in 2011. The city’s violent crime rate decreased from 889.9 in 2010 to 767 in 2011. The city’s property crime rate increased from 5,487.4 in 2010 to 6,913.5 in 2011.

While Cooper is pleased with the report’s findings, he is concerned that fewer crime fighters makes it more difficult to fight crime, according to a news release from Cooper’s office.

“When we invest wisely in law enforcement, the result is safer communities,” Cooper said.  “It takes well-trained law enforcement using the latest technology to keep our crime rates low, and we need to make sure they have the tools needed to do the job.”

Budget cuts and reduction in personnel make it more difficult to battle crime, Watson said.

“Anytime you’re trying to accomplish the same level of service or improve your service with fewer employees or fewer, in this case, deputies in the field, it does make it very hard or challenging to continue improvement.”

Watson said the sheriff’s office realizes the county commissioners have made some difficult budget-related decisions because of the state of the county’s economy. Watson said the commissioners’ decision to restore a patrol deputy’s position to the current fiscal year’s budget helps the sheriff’s office better do its job.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike