For most people, violent crime is something seen on the news – somewhat distant and vague. Like seeing reports of a terrorist attack across the world, even violent crime that happens locally is typically removed from most people’s day-to-day lives. Though crime causes fear and caution for all of us, there is also a level of disconnect unless you have had the misfortune of being personally impacted.
But the reality is that crime does occur, and citizens here in North Carolina are facing the aftermath. Earlier this year, the state of North Carolina released a State Bureau of Investigation report with 2015 data showing that despite the overall crime rate drop statewide, violent crime – including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault – increased by almost seven percent. This disturbing trend represents nationwide numbers as well.
And despite statistics showing the overall decline, those numbers don’t always share the full story. Age, economic status, race, and geography all contribute to crime, and who is impacted by it. North Carolina officials need to take notice as they work in Raleigh for this year’s “long session” of the legislature. As always, there are many pressing issues for legislators to consider, but among them should be the important issue of expanding victims’ rights protections to better support the safety of victims when considering matters like release, bail, and courtroom exposure for the accused.
It’s important that these protections are consistently applied statewide in North Carolina from county to county and regionally by amending the state constitution. While working to address the disturbing shift of increased violent crime after a decade of decline, it’s critical to protect victims, so that those accused and convicted of crimes do not have greater rights than the people they hurt.