LAURINBURG — Scotland County in 2012 saw a slight increase in violent crime but a drop in property crime, according to a report released this week by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation.
The county ranked seventh in property crime among North Carolina counties with a rate of 5,024 per 100,000 residents, and 12th in violent crime with a rate of 528. Scotland’s rates also follow the statewide trend — the rate of violent crime per 100,000 North Carolinians rose 0.6 percent in 2012.
The Scotland County Sheriff’s department and Laurinburg Police Department reported four murders in 2012, down from seven in 2011. The two agencies combined saw six rapes and 137 aggravated assaults in 2012, up from five rapes and 98 aggravated assaults reported in 2011.
Scotland County Sheriff Shep Jones attributed high crime rates in Scotland and neighboring counties to the area’s unemployment rate.
“With the unemployment rate where it is we have a lot of folks who are in survival mode,” Jones said, “and we have individuals who are committing criminal acts who normally would not, but because of the circumstances they are resorting to crime.
“We’re making a tremendous amount of arrests for property crime and also the violent crimes that are taking place.”
Robeson, Cumberland, and Anson counties outranked Scotland in both categories of crime. Several counties — Edgecombe, Durham, Lenoir, Mecklenburg, Nash, and Forsyth — had a higher rate of violent crime than Scotland County, but lower property crime.
Cumberland County had the highest rate of property crime with a rate of 6,140, while Robeson County topped the list of violent crime with a rate of 809.5.
Dare, Vance, and Richmond counties outranked Scotland in property crime, but not in violent crime.
According to the report, robberies and motor vehicle thefts in Scotland County reached their lowest numbers in over a decade. In 2012, 50 motor vehicle thefts were reported in the county, down from 86 in 2011, and robberies were also down from 58 in 2011 to 33 last year. Statewide, property crime was down 4.4 percent from 2011 to reach the state’s lowest rate since 1976.
Jones credited lowered crime to increased patrols as well and community vigilance.
“There is a high visibility of patrol that exists in the county and I think the citizens are calling in a lot of information now, said Jones. “We get a lot of information from people calling in and that helps a whole lot.”
Jones said that the now endemic state of high unemployment in North Carolina’s rural counties may have a lasting effect on the crime rate statewide.
“It’s actually something we talk about when we go to conferences; sheriffs are all talking about the levels of crime taking place in their particular counties,” he said. “It’s the economics that exist and the unemployment that we have here contributing to that. Of course we put preventative types of crime fighting tools in place just trying to prevent folks from getting involved and getting in the system — people start with the little petty stuff and of course it elevates to more serious crimes and felonies.”