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North Carolina State Troopers gather on I-85 in Vance County. (WRAL-TV file photo) North Carolina State Troopers gather on I-85 in Vance County. (WRAL-TV file photo)

North Carolina State Troopers gather on I-85 in Vance County. (WRAL-TV file photo)

Paul Specht
By Paul Specht August 23, 2022

NC trooper wrong about violent crime hitting record high

If Your Time is short

  • The most comprehensive violent crime data is collected by the FBI, which has information from 1985 to 2020.
  • FBI reports show that violent crime peaked in the early 1990s.
  • Recent statistics collected by law enforcement agencies and analyzed by researchers do not support the trooper's claim that violent crime will reach an all-time high in 2022.

When it comes to making political endorsements, it makes sense that law enforcement groups would prioritize crime reduction.

But the president of the North Carolina Troopers Association made a factual leap when announcing Aug. 10 that his organization would be endorsing U.S. Rep. Ted Budd over Democrat Cheri Beasley, a former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. 

"With violent crime at an all-time high, it is imperative we have a U.S. senator who will support law enforcement," association President Ben Kral said in a statement to Fox News Digital. "Ted Budd is the best choice by far to be North Carolina’s next U.S. senator." 

Kral’s quote was also included on Budd’s campaign website.

But historical data show violent crime is not at an all-time high — neither in North Carolina nor in the U.S.

While violent crime has increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say the overall rate of violent crime still falls far short of records from the early 1990s.

PolitiFact North Carolina attempted to contact Kral by email and telephone. Debbie Wilborn, executive director of the troopers’ association, said in an email that there would be "no comment at this time."

Not an ‘all-time’ high

PolitiFact North Carolina reviewed data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and consulted multiple crime researchers to check Kral’s claim, the same way PolitiFact has checked similar claims in recent years.

The FBI considers four specific offenses to be violent crimes because they involve force or the threat of force: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. The bureau calculates a rate of violent crime by looking at the number of reported cases per 100,000 people. 

Violent crime rates calculated for 2020 and 2019, the most recent years available, fall well short of high rates documented in the early 1990s.

In 2020, there were 398.5 violent crimes per 100,000 people in the U.S. and about 419.3 cases per 100,000 people in North Carolina. That was based on data received from nearly 16,000 of 18,623 law enforcement agencies. In 2019, the rate was 379.4 across the U.S. and 371.8 in North Carolina.

Violent crime rates in the U.S. peaked at about 758 cases per 100,000 people in 1991 and 1992, according to FBI data dating back to 1985. They declined through the 1990s and into the 21st century until about 2004, when they rose slightly and hovered between a rate of 460 and 480 for about five years. The rates then fell below 400 for most of the 2010s, before rising again in 2020.

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The arch of North Carolina’s violent crime rate is similar. The state’s crime rate peaked at 681 cases in 1992, only rising above the national average four times: 1998, 1999, 2008, and 2020. That year, North Carolina's rate of 419 was higher than the U.S. average of 398, but it was nowhere near the record.

Violent crime was higher in the late 1980s and early 1990s in part because of the proliferation of crack cocaine, said James Alan Fox, a professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at Northeastern University.

"It was the trafficking that was extremely competitive and violent. And the gangs were ruling the roost," Fox said in a phone interview. "We don't know what the statistics will be for 2022, but there's no way they’re going to be higher than they were back then." 

Experts told PolitiFact NC that mass shootings and other gun violence appear to be increasing. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counted the highest number of gun-related deaths on record in 2020, according to an analysis released this year by the Pew Research Center.

However, researchers who track violent crime across U.S. cities say trends from this year don’t suggest a record-setting pace for violent crime as a whole.

Although local data suggests that violent crime is on the rise in some parts of the country, the increases "are dwarfed by the amount of violent crime in the 1990s," Richard Berk, professor of Criminology and Statistics at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote earlier this year. "We have not returned to the bad old days."

The Major Cities Chiefs Association tracks violent crime data from 70 large U.S. cities. Its recent midyear report showed rape and homicide cases to be down the first six months of this year compared to the first six months of last year, although Charlotte and Raleigh each posted four more homicide cases than the year prior.

AH Datalytics, a firm that analyzes crime data, relies on the Major Cities Chiefs Association as part of its effort to track homicides in 90 cities across the U.S. On the whole, it found that homicide numbers were down 3.5% through the first half of 2022.

Jeff Asher, a data analyst who co-founded the firm, said in an email that "2021 likely had the highest murder rate this century, but it was still down a good bit from the peak murder rate years in the early 1980s and 1990s." 

"Violent crime rates in general remain far lower than they were in the early 1990s," said Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist who conducts research for the Council on Criminal Justice, which examines monthly crime rates in 29 American cities, including Raleigh. "Robbery and property crime rates rose during the first half of the year, but they, too, remain much lower than in the early ’90s. 

"I would say the state trooper is incorrect," Rosenfeld said in an email.

Our ruling

Kral, the president of the North Carolina Troopers Association, said that "violent crime [is] at an all-time high."

Available data contradicts Kral’s statement and he didn’t offer any evidence to support it. We rate his claim False.

Our Sources

Fox News, "Trump-backed NC Senate candidate Ted Budd gets key law enforcement endorsement over Democratic opponent," posted Aug. 10, 2022.

Email exchange with Debbie Wilborn, executive director of the North Carolina Troopers Association.

FBI data, Rate of violent crime offenses by population, 1985-2020.

FBI reports, "Crime in the United States."

AH Datalytics dashboard, "Year to date murder comparison," for 2022 and 2021.

Telephone interview with James Alan Fox, a professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern University.

Email exchange with Jeff Asher, data analyst and cofounder of AH Datalytics.

Email exchange with Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis who conducts research for the nonprofit Council on Criminal Justice.

Article by Richard Berk, professor of Criminology and Statistics at the University of Pennsylvania, "Is Violent Crime Increasing?"

Major Cities Chiefs Association report, "Violent crime survey midyear comparison," released Aug. 2, 2022.

Council on Criminal Justice report, "Pandemic, social unrest, and crime in U.S. cities: Mid-year 2022 update," published July 2022. 

Pew Research, "What the data says about gun deaths in the U.S.," posted Feb. 3, 2022.

Brennan Center for Justice report, "Myths and Realities: Understanding Recent Trends in Violent Crime," published July 12, 2022.

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NC trooper wrong about violent crime hitting record high

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