Between South Carolina and Tennessee

Published 8:51 pm Thursday, November 21, 2013

Violent crime is up and in the most surprising of places. One would think that New York, California, Illinois, Texas — those states with the biggest cities and largest populations — would top the list with number of violent crimes committed per capita per year. But that assumption is dead wrong.

In fact, the state with the highest violent crime rate is Tennessee. Tennessee is followed by Nevada. And Nevada is followed by Alaska.

Nevada is understandable. It is, after all, home to a large city known as a capital of vice. Alaska? Perhaps it’s the combination of relentless cold and the midnight sun that gives them an annual rate of 603 violent crimes per 100,000 people per year. But if Nevada made it on the list, then naturally other states with the biggest cities most follow, right?

Wrong. If Tennessee was a surprise and Alaska a second one, then most of the other top ten violent states will be, as well.

In order of violent crimes per capita per year: 1) Tennessee; 2) Nevada; 3) Alaska; 4) New Mexico; 5) South Carolina; 6) Delaware; 7) Louisiana; 8) Florida; 9) Maryland and 10) Oklahoma.

Of those, five of these states also made the top ten list for property crime:  Tennessee comes in at No. 10; Oklahoma at No. 9; Louisiana at No. 5; New Mexico at No. 4; and our sister Carolina, our neighbor to the south, scores highest in property crime out of all 50 states in the Union.

So what separates these five states from the other 45? A poverty rate over 17 percent, for one thing, that goes hand in hand with high school graduation rates below the national average.

Here in Beaufort County, our high school graduation rates are 3 percent below the national average; our poverty rate is 19 percent.

Compare that to the town of Cary: less than 5 percent poverty level and high school graduation rates of 95 percent. No wonder Cary is now the safest place in the nation.

The numbers tell the story: jobs and education, no matter where you go in this country, are the backbone of a healthy society.

Perhaps our legislators should remember that when they start on a new budget. If they continue to cut education, we might end up right next to South Carolina and Tennessee.