News: CJ Exclusives

Roundup on Crime Rate, State Audits

NC crime rate improves, while state auditor reports action on performance audits

Reports of crime across North Carolina fell by 2.4 percent in 2003, the State Attorney General’s Office reported last week.

The rate of violent crime per 100,000 Nortn Carolinians dropped by 5.3 percent. The rates fell in all violent-crime categories. The number of murders was down 10.3 percent, and rapes decreased by 6 percent, while robberies dropped 3.3 percent, and aggravated assaults declined 6.1 percent.

The rate of property crimes — burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft — fell 2.1 percent statewide. Reports of aggravated assault fell 6.1 percent, burglary declined 3.6 percent, and larceny decreased 2.2 percent. Motor vehicle theft increased 4.8 percent, and arson, which is not included in the overall property crime rate, dropped by 22.9 percent. Calculations used population data from the N.C. Office of State Budget, Planning, and Management.

“Criminals are continuing to find new ways to commit their crimes, methods that aren’t necessarily captured in these statistics, “ Attorney General Roy Cooper said. Cooper pointed to child predators, who are using the seeming anonymity of the Internet to lure children out of their homes.

The State Bureau of Investigation is also continuing to deal with a steady increase in the number of clandestine drug labs producing harmful methamphetamine. In 1999, the first year that meth labs were reported in North Carolina, SBI agents discovered nine labs. That number has soared, with agents shutting down 177 labs in 2003 and 217 labs so far in 2004.

Action on Performance Audits

In other state news, state agencies have implemented or are in the process of implementing 86 percent of the recommendations made in performance audits by the State Auditor’s Office for the last three years, according to a follow-up report released Wednesday.

The State Auditor’s Office routinely examines its own performance in conducting audits, including an assessment of whether recommendations made in performance audits are being put in place. Performance audits are intended to focus on ways agencies or programs can improve their efficiency, economy, and effectiveness.

The report tracked recommendations made in 18 performance audits conducted from January 2000 to December 2003. The audits included programs ranging from the state’s information technology purchasing system to the Smart Start and Juvenile Justice programs.

“Too often in state government, reports are put together, then are consigned to a shelf where they do nothing more than gather dust,” Campbell said. “We want to make sure that our reports, and particularly our performance audits, do not end up in that category. We want our reports to be useful to the agencies we audit and to the taxpayers, who expect government to make every effort to be more effective and efficient.”

The audits conducted from 2000 to 2003 had a total net financial impact on North Carolina of $745 million for the proposals that auditors were able to quantify. That included $981 million in savings and questioned costs that should be recouped and $236 million in additional spending where auditors believed increased staffing or program enhancements would improve services to the public and lead to more efficiency.