By Jesse Wood
Oct. 20, 2014. The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation released its annual crime index in October, and once again, the High Country ranks among the safest places to live in North Carolina.
Crime in North Carolina
Across the state in 2013, the crime rate per 100,000 people declined 7 percent when compared to 2012, according to the SBI, which utilizes the N.C. Uniform Reporting Program system and reports from local law enforcement agencies to compile the crime index.
The crime index is divided into two major classifications: violent crime, which includes murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, and property crime, which includes burglary, larceny and auto theft.
Violent crime decreased 5.4 percent across the state, which includes the murder rate declining 3.8 percent; rape rate declining 10.2 percent; robbery rate declining 7.2 percent; and aggravated assault rate declining 6.4 percent.
Property crimes declined 7.2 percent across the state with the burglary rate declining 9.3 percent; larceny declining 5.9 percent; auto theft declining 10.9 percent; and arson declining 17.7 percent.
Crime in High Country – Ashe, Avery and Watauga
The High Country was on par with the state as far as declining crime rates.
Ashe, Avery and Watauga rank in the top 10 counties in the state as far as the fewest violent and property crimes per 100,000 people. Ashe, Avery and Watauga placed third, sixth and seventh overall as far as fewest crimes.
In the violent crime category, Ashe County placed third; Watauga County placed eighth; and Avery County placed 14th. (Six counties in the state weren’t included in the 2013 crime index report.)
In Watauga County, the index crime rate fell from 1,842.4 crimes per 100,000 people in 2012 to 1,479.5 in 2013. The violent crime rate for Watauga dropped from 131 crimes in 2012 to 120.4 crimes in 2013 per 100,000 people, while the property crime rate dropped from 1,711.3 crimes to 1,359.1 crimes per 100,000 people.
That is compared to Ashe County, which had 69.2 violent crimes per 100,000 people in 2013. In 2012, that number was 109.4 – a dramatic drop. Ashe also had another dramatic drop in property crime rates – from 1,506.7 property crimes to 1,307.9 property crimes per 100,000 people.
While violent crime increased in Avery County from 135.9 crimes in 2012 to 147.6 crimes in 2013, Avery County’s property crime rate declined significantly from 1,506.7 crimes to 1,305.9 crimes per 100,000 people.
On Monday, Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman commended his deputies for “doing really, really well,” and noted that this effort to reduce crime is a collective effort.
“It’s a collaboration of everybody doing their job, I think. We are staying on top of it and that’s part of it, but we didn’t do it by ourselves. It took efforts from other agencies and certainly from the citizens themselves. It’s hard for us to follow things without them calling in and trying to help and assisting us with tips,” Hagaman said. “I think that it also shows vigilance on our part as well.”
“We do have a low crime rate,” Hagaman added. “But like I said, we certainly can’t take credit for all of it.”