The report is a compilation of all the offenses reported to law enforcement agencies throughout North Carolina.
The biggest gains were in violent crime, which rose 31 percent. The report said there were 535.3 violent crimes per 100,000 people, as opposed to 409.6 in 2007. Violent crimes are defined as murders, forcible rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults.
Property crimes increased by 16 percent in the same time span. The rate is 4,990.2 per 100,000 people, up from 4,3207. Property crimes are defined as burglaries, larcenies and motor vehicle thefts.
Sheriff Shep Jones believes the uptick in crime may be linked to another undesirable local rate.
"I think one of the main factors is the economic situation here in Scotland County
Jones pointed to the 17.6 county unemployment rate. The county has the highest jobless rate in North Carolina.
"That alone will contribute to the increase in crime. Studies have shown that communities where there is high unemployment, there is high crime as well."
He said its a case of the old adage idle hands leave idle minds.
He said the reverse is true about areas with more jobs.
"You can look at counties with less unemployment and they have a lower crime rate."
He said some of the upturn in crime may be contributed to gangs.
"Part of the initiation to get into gangs is committing a crime, and that will inflate statistics."
Jones said with as only a piece of the picture, however.
Police Chief John Evans believes a different factor increased the number, especially with property crime.
He said a higher percentage of crimes were being reported, a fact he largely attributes to more active police work.
"We changed from a reactive police department to a proactive police department."
He says police witnessed more crimes in action in 2008 than 2007 because of a more vigilant approach.
Before, officers would respond to calls but now they more actively look for situations, such as fights.
Another major factor is several retailers hired loss prevention experts.
He pointed to one local retailer that hired a loss prevention manager in early 2008. The store, which had infrequent larceny reports, now has as many as a dozen reports in a single week.
Evans also saw an upturn in people lying about thefts. He said a big problem in 2008 was people falsely claiming their vehicle was stolen.
"Over half were charged with filing a false police report."
He said people will lie and claim their vehicle was stolen for a number of issues, including insurance fraud.
Evans said another issue in 2008 was high metal prices, which increased the number of air-conditioning units and copper wiring that was stolen. He said the price of metals has dropped, so much of this crime has gone away.
Whatever the reason for the rise in crime, both agencies have strategies they hope will reduce crime.
"One of the things we are doing is trying to establish more community watch
we are also doing concentrated efforts in areas where there is high crime," Jones said.
Jones said better enforcement is also a big step in reducing crime.
"I think one of the main things you can do is, once a crime is committed, you put them in jail."
The sheriff said it acts as a deterrent as it tells others that criminal activity will not be tolerated by local law enforcement.
Evans says his men are being more active. He noted that, after a number of special operations and new strategies for getting violent offenders off the street, there has been a noticeable downturn in violent crime from even a few months ago.
He said reports of "shots fired" incidents have decreased by as much as 98 percent.
Jones also says the crime rate is likely decreasing.
"[The crime rates are] probably a little better than last year. Last year was an exceptional year. I am looking for a brighter future."
Scotland County measured better than two of its neighbors – Robeson and Richmond County. Robeson's overall crime rate is 33 percent higher than Scotland's while its violent crime rate is 77 percent higher. Richmond's rate is about 6 percent higher, with a slightly lower violent crime rate and a slightly higher property crime rate.
Scotland's crime rate was more than double that of Hoke County about 85 percent higher than Moore County.
Statewide, crime fell by 2.2 percent in 2008 while violent crime dropped by 1.3 percent, according to the report.
Statewide rates rose in one violent crime category — robbery — by 2.2 percent. Rates for three other violent crime categories fell, with murders down 3.5 percent, rapes down 6.3 percent, and aggravated assaults down 2.7 percent.
Neighboring Robeson County led North Carolina in violent crime during 2008 with 946 instances of violent crime in Robeson County per 100,000, an increase of 14.4 percent over the previous year. Edgecombe County had the second highest rate of violent crime, 878.9, and Mecklenburg County was third at 862.5.
The rate of property crimes — burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft — decreased by 2.3 percent statewide.
Reports of larceny fell 2.7 percent, while reports of burglary dropped 0.4 percent and reports of motor vehicle theft fell 7.0 percent.
Juvenile arrests for index crime offenses rose 7 percent, while adult arrests for those offenses rose 10 percent. Juvenile arrests for all crimes dropped 3 percent, while adult arrest for all crimes remained unchanged.
North Carolina’s overall reported crime rate has fallen nearly 14 percent in the past 10 years, according to Cooper. Both property and violent crime rates are down nearly 14 percent compared to a decade ago.
Cooper said this decrease in the crime rate has come during a time when the state’s population included in crime statistics reporting has grown by more than 20 percent.
“Some of the credit must go to stronger laws and diligent law enforcement. But simply because we are in a decline, we cannot stop to celebrate,” Cooper said. “No level of crime is acceptable and we must be even more innovative in our efforts to fight it.”
Cooper plans to ask the legislature to allow DNA collection from those arrested for felonies and violent misdemeanors. Also critical to reducing crime are prevention and addressing offenders who are released from prison after their sentences are served, Cooper said.
“We have to find ways to make sure offenders who have done their time don’t turn back to crime when they exit the prison doors,” he said.
Cooper is working with corrections officials to launch StreetSafe, an initiative to direct ex-offenders toward discipline and job skills in hope that they can rejoin communities successfully.
The North Carolina Uniform Crime Reporting Program is part of a nationwide effort administered by the FBI.
For information about 2008 crime statistics, go to www.ncdoj.gov. Click “Crime,” then “View Crime Statistics.”
For access to detailed reports, go to http://sbi2.jus.state.nc.us/crp/public/Default.htm.