The violent crime, assault and murder rates have gone down in Sampson County, according to reports from the North Carolina Department of Justice.
In Sampson County, in 2010, there were four murders; in 2011, there was one. Rapes and aggravated assaults were each reduced by 50 percent. “We went from 16 rapes to eight in 2011,” stressed Sheriff Jimmy Thornton, who was pleased with the drop in the county’s crime rate. “Aggravated assaults went from 66 to 33 in 2011. We wish there wasn’t any, but we are making progress.”
Larcenies went from 618 to 606 in 2011; and motor vehicle thefts remained the same at 91.
The results, released last week, also show that property crime rates, burglary and larceny rates, per 100,000 persons, have gone up, but just by fractions.
Robberies went from 19 to 25 and burglaries went from 623 in 2010 went to 836 in 2011.
However, Thornton noted that the state system doesn’t separate burglaries and breaking and enterings.
“Our system separates all of it in detail, but theirs doesn’t,” he explained, “so that is all lumped in.”
The North Carolina Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program divides offenses into two classifications: Part 1 includes murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson. Offenses, excluding negligent manslaughter and arson, are used to calculate the Crime Index and Crime Rate.
”If you look at everything, the crime rate was down,” the sheriff pointed out. “It depends on the software that each county has. It may not match up with what the DOJ’s (Department of Justice) software is. What is accurate is what we have here, that is what we go by.”
In Clinton, the results were lower as well. In fact, Police Chief Mike Brim said the city’s rate has continued to go down each year.
“Over the past eight years, we have seen about a 47-48 percent decrease in crime, as far as type 1 crimes, which are the violent crimes in Clinton,” explained Brim. “I am proud of that.”
Per 100,000 persons, Clinton is well below that national average at 83.96 percent in the total crime index; and at 53.82 percent per 100,000 persons in the violent crime index. A complete breakdown of Clinton’s crime rate was not available.
Both Brim and Thornton attributed efforts from their staff to get into communities as playing a crucial role in stamping out crime.
“I think that the comfort level with the public has helped us out a lot,” Thornton said. “We are getting a lot of help from the public and that has made a big difference. Any time you can get your community involved with stopping crime, it benefits everybody. We are all about putting thugs in jail.”
“I contribute our low crime rates to citizen involvement,” he acknowledged. “Citizens are becoming more aware of their surroundings and are calling police before things get out of hand. That relationship between the citizens and the community is absolutely paramount.”
“It is imperative,”noted Thornton. “It is their community. We shouldn’t let certain elements control our communities, we need to control our communities.”
Clinton’s Neighborhood Improvement Team (NIT) has worked hand-in-hand with the community to begin strong relationships with law enforcement.
“The NIT team has made a huge difference, as far as the response to certain complaints in certain areas,” Brim stressed. “They have been able to address, not only crime, but quality of life issues by utilizing our code enforcement.”
In turn, the city has also played its part by following up on the team’s work by actually enforcing the laws.
“The Planning Department and our Public Works Department works with us,” explained Brim. “I think that the City Council’s forward thinking about tearing down some of these properties around town that have been left by absentee landlords, basically abandoned, has made a difference, too.”
Because of that, Brim said, there are less places for people to congregate. “It is the broken window theory — when a community becomes dilapidated and starts to fall, the structures become unattended, people look at it as if no one cares,” he said. “That invites the criminal element. With the city taking that type of stance to get rid of those properties and refurbish those properties, it tells folks that we aren’t gonna tolerate that in Clinton. I applaud them for doing that. It has helped us tremendously throughout the city.”
Thornton said his staff has been proactive in the fight against crime throughout the county, as well, primarily targeting drugs.
“Drugs primarily drive crime, more or less,” the sheriff emphasized. “We have been proactive over the past 12 months. We’ve made a tremendous amount of drug arrests. And we have made a lot of arrests on these breaking and entering people, some of which occurred in 2010, but we arrested this year. We have made a concerted effort to take the drugs off the street and that has played a crucial role, because drugs drive a lot of crime. If you look at the prison population, I will be that out of 75 percent that are in there, it is because of drugs or addiction. We have had a multitude of arrests relating to drugs and we continue to be pro-active, not just the drugs, but in all elements of crime.”
Both Brim and Thornton said they want to remain one step ahead of a crime, but as results have shown, involvement from the community is making a difference.
“The absolute most important thing is the citizens involvement,” Brim said. “Just to have them have the willingness to call us if they see something, that makes a big difference. You know, we are all in this together. It is not a law enforcement problem, it is a community problem. We are the element that can deal with it, but policing is a community problem, we have to police ourselves as a whole.”
“We are proactive and we are on top of things, hopefully, the general public realizes that,” said Thornton. “My staff does a good job in dealing with the elements we have to deal with everyday and when the public gets involved, it makes things work. That is what we are here for, to work together.”
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.