A decline in crime creates a safer Gaston County

Downtown Gastonia

Over the past decade, Gaston County has experienced a decline in the crime rate, helping to create a safer community for residents and visitors alike.  This is good news for a county that encompasses one of the largest populations in the Charlotte region.  The county’s crime index rate peaked in 2001 with a rate of 558.3 per 10,000 residents.  By 2011, Gaston’s crime index rate had dropped to 384.7 per 10,000 residents, a stark contrast to a decade earlier as illustrated below.  The overall crime rate encompasses seven offenses to serve as an index for gauging fluctuations in the overall volume and rate of crime.  These offenses include violent crimes of murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault, and property crimes of burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft.  Crime rates are also reported for violent crimes and property crimes separately.

Gaston and many peer counties including Cabarrus, Catawba, Davidson, Iredell and York, experienced similar patterns of decline over the past decade.  Davidson County experienced a crime rate of 263.4 per 10,000 residents in 2009, which was the lowest crime rate recorded for any of Gaston’s peer counties since 2000.  Gaston’s crime index rate fell between its peer counties in 2011 which ranged from a low of 281.6 for Davidson County to a high of 443.8 for Catawba County.  With Cabarrus, Davidson and Iredell Counties experiencing lower crime rates, Gaston can explore how strategies implemented in these geographic areas could be used to improve the crime rates in Gaston County as well.

Similar to the crime index rate, the property crime rate has declined in Gaston and its peer counties in recent years.  In 2011, the property crime rate was 346.5 per 10,000 residents in Gaston County, the lowest since 2000.  Although this positive trend is not to be overlooked, Gaston’s property crime rate is still higher than several peer counties.  Peer counties that experienced property crime rates lower than Gaston in 2011 include Cabarrus (299.4), Davidson (261.0), and Iredell (326.9).

Violent crime rates were also lower in Gaston County in 2011 compared to earlier years.  In 2011, the county cut the violent crime rate to 38.2 per 10,000 residents, almost in half from ten years ago (71.4).  Nevertheless, Gaston still experienced the highest violent crime rate compared to its peer counties in 2011.  Cabarrus County experienced a violent crime rate of 12.0 in 2011, much lower than its peer counties as seen below. 

Gaston continues to succeed in its efforts to create a safer community, as evident in the recent decline in violent crime from a rate of 47.3 per 10,000 residents in 2010 to 38.2 in 2011.  Even with such a major feat in just one year, the rate is still higher than in comparable counties. The county has the opportunity to study the strategies it has used to reduce crime in recent years and to enhance these efforts moving forward.  Gaston should also find what other approaches its peer counties are executing to combat crime and consider implementing these efforts at home.