North Carolina’s Department of Justice released a report yesterday showing that the state’s crime rate continues to decline. Not every type of crime has declined, however, and certain areas of the state continue to have relatively high rates.
The statistics show a readily discernible pattern: From 10 years ago, the crime rate has lowered by more than 20 percent, and violent crime is down even more. From 2011 to 2012, the overall crime rate fell 3.8 percent. Property crimes declined even more, with motor vehicle thefts down by 5.8 percent, burglaries down by 7.9 percent and juvenile crimes down by a startling 12 percent. Indeed, law enforcement has focused on preventing juvenile crime. These efforts have included implementing community programs and making changes in the schools.
Violent crime is up slightly. Interestingly, some rural counties have higher rates of violent crime than urban areas. At the root of this may be the fact that rural areas have experienced significant poverty and joblessness, drug trafficking, higher rates of domestic violence and fewer law enforcement resources. Raleigh also saw a crime increase of 4 percent, possibly due to its growing number of residents.
The current crime rate takes us back to 1976, which is the last time North Carolina crime statistics told a similar story. With the crime rate falling five years in a row, the media is examining and celebrating the decline.
North Carolina allows more people to expunge criminal records
The media has also taken note of another way North Carolina residents are handling incidents of crime. More people with criminal records are becoming eligible to have those records expunged — erasing certain crimes from permanent records.
Last year, the opportunities to expunge criminal records increased. Convictions for first-time nonviolent misdemeanors and low-level felonies are eligible for expunction under certain circumstances, such as when substantial time has passed and the person has demonstrated good character. The result has been a marked decrease in the number of North Carolina residents with criminal records.
Expunging a criminal record, especially when the crime in question is far in the past, can be vital for people seeking jobs or places to live. In this economy, a decades-old conviction or even an arrest can lead a potential employer to look elsewhere, especially when the pool of applicants is very deep.
North Carolina also has an interest in seeing its citizens succeed. Not only do people with well-paying jobs rely less on expensive state programs, but the most qualified people should be able to compete for the best jobs.
As more people with criminal records learn about the possibility of expunction, the number of people who enjoy its benefits should increase.
Healthy numbers prevail for North Carolina
With the decrease in crime rates and the decrease in the number of people with criminal records, North Carolina appears to be heading in a direction that should please many. This does not change the fact, however, that every person accused of a crime deserves enthusiastic, knowledgeable representation. If you have been accused of a crime, contact an attorney right away to guard your rights and build a strategy.
Source: News & Observer, “North Carolina’s crime rate declined again in 2012,” Thomasi McDonald, Sept. 5, 2013
ABCLocal.com, “North Carolina expanding rules for erasing criminal records,” Emery P. Dalesio, Aug. 24, 2013