North Carolina's overall crime rate fell last year but the rate of violent crimes rose slightly, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Thursday.
But Cooper said that while the statistics are encouraging, he is concerned that budget cuts will translate into fewer police officers on the street and investigators in the field.
"When you ask people how they want their tax dollars invested, public safety ranks very high on the list," Cooper said in a statement. "We must invest in well-trained officers and modern crime fighting tools and if we don't, I'm concerned that public safety will pay the price."
The attorney general also said he's worried the state's crime lab is overburdened and needs more help to perform its duties.
"A growing state needs to put more cops on the street, more investigators in the field, and more scientists in the crime lab, but we cannot do that if we don't adequately fund law enforcement," Cooper said.
The report by the State Bureau of Investigation said the overall rate of crime per 100,000 people in North Carolina decreased by 4.4 percent compared with 2011. The SBI said that is the state's lowest rate since 1976.
However, the rate of violent crime per 100,000 North Carolinians rose 0.6 percent. Among violent crimes, rape decreased 1 percent, robbery dropped 3 percent and murder decreased 3.8 percent, while aggravated assault rose 2.4 percent, the report said.
The rate of property crimes such as burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft decreased by 4.9 percent.
The report said the larceny rate fell 3.4 percent, the motor vehicle theft rate fell 5.8 percent, and the burglary rate fell 7.9.
Reports are submitted to the State Bureau of Investigation from law enforcement agencies across the state.
The report said the latest statistics mark the fourth year in a row that North Carolina has seen its lowest crime rate in decades and continues the state's long-term trend of falling crime rates.
Compared to a decade ago, the overall crime rate is down 20.3 percent and the rate of violent crime is down 21.4 percent, the report said.