FBI data shows rise in violent crimes in Albemarle, Stanly

Published 10:18 am Monday, October 4, 2021

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The Albemarle Police Department last year experienced the third-highest number of reported violent crimes in the city over the past 35 years, according to new data released last week by the FBI.

In 2020, there were 152 violent crimes reported in the city, compared with 145 in 2019 and 127 in 2018. Only 1993, when there was 159 crimes, and 1995, when there was 156 crimes, were worse. The clearance rate for last year was about 49 percent, meaning that for about half of the incidents, no arrests have yet been made.

The report from the FBI, which tabulates crime numbers reported by almost 16,000 law enforcement agencies, includes crimes of all types in its database, which extends from 1985 to 2020. Violent crime is composed of four offenses: homicide (murder and non-negligent manslaughter), rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

This data reflects the hierarchy rule, which requires that only the most serious offense in a case be counted. The descending order of violent crimes, according to the FBI, are homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, followed by the property crimes of burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft.

Albemarle Assistant Police Chief Jesse Huneycutt said the city, in his view, has not necessarily gotten more dangerous in recent years, it’s just the record-keeping and reporting of the data has improved and become more accurate, which in turn has led to the numbers increasing.

“Society has changed like any other society, but Albemarle is no more violent place than it has been since 1985,” he said.

The department also saw an increase in several specific violent crimes, including assaults and homicides.

There were 121 reported aggravated assaults in 2020, tied with 1993 as the highest total since 1985, and an 81 percent increase since 2017, when there were 67 reported aggravated assaults. Of the total last year, 64 were cleared, which represents about 53 percent of the offenses.

There were six reported homicides last year, though five have been cleared, an increase from one reported in 2019. The previous high over the 35-year period was five homicides in 2002.

Huneycutt said the the bulk of the homicides resulted from people dying after acquiring drugs — or as he calls it, death by distribution.

Crime within a community can be impacted by so many variables that it’s hard to make any projections going forward, Huneycutt said.

“There are so many given variables, it’s hard to say what will happen in six months, six days, six weeks from now.”

There were 921 property crimes last year, a four percent increase from the previous year, but far below the early 1990s, when the totals regularly exceeded 1,200 and twice reached 1,600.

The Stanly County Sheriff’s Office reported 47 violent crimes in 2020, 23 more than the previous year and the highest total in more than a decade. Even with the increase, it’s still far less than the early 1990s and early 2000s, when reported violent crimes regularly exceeded 50 and 60. The clearance rate for last year was about 60 percent.

The sheriff's office recorded 38 aggravated assaults last year, up from 18 in 2019 and eight in 2018, and the highest total since 51 were reported in 2002. Property crimes declined almost 20 percent in 2020.

Sheriff Jeff Crisco said much of the uptick in violent crime last year could be attributed to the many consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"With last year with COVID, you had more people at home not being able to get out and have that social interaction," Crisco said, noting that the increased isolation likely led to more violence.

FBI data showed more than 44,000 violent crimes were reported in North Carolina, a 12 percent increase from 2019 and the highest total in more than 20 years. Aggravated assaults (roughly 33,000) and robberies (7,000) largely drove the statewide increase. North Carolina reported 852 homicides, a 30 percent increase from last year.

Violent crime increased about five percent nationally for 2020.

Many nearby cities that reported adequate data also experienced upticks in violent crime including Charlotte (up 15 percent from 2019 to 2020), Monroe (up nine percent) and Wadesboro (up 25 percent.)

All the other departments within Stanly County have not reported consistent data in recent years to make any meaningful observations and none reported any data for 2020. Locust, for example, has not provided the FBI with violent crime data since 2007, when the department reported only one such offense, while Oakboro has not provided data since 2005, when it reported seven cases.

The FBI received crime data in 2020 from 378 out of 534 law enforcement agencies across North Carolina.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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