The number of murders, aggravated assaults, rapes, and robberies all increased in North Carolina between 2018 and 2019.

Violent crime in the state grew by 4.4%, according to statistics from the FBI. The state's population grew by 5.4% during the same period.

Nationally, violent crime dropped, an annual report released this week by the FBI shows.

"In 2019, violent crime was down 0.5% from the 2018 number. Property crimes also dropped 4.1%, marking the 17th consecutive year the collective estimates for these offenses declined," the FBI reported.

Crime rates in the state rose in every category tracked in the federal statistics except for burglaries, which dropped by about 6%.

The murder and non-negliget homicide rate increased by 9%. Rapes reported to police increased by 22%.

“It’s hard to know what to take away from these trends,” said Carissa Hessick, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law.

“There’s limited value to looking at percent change from one year to the next,” Hessick said. “We just don’t really know why crime goes up and why crime goes down.”

Hessick, who is also the director of the Prosecutors and Politics Project, said there are some important factors to consider while looking at these numbers. The base rate should be considered first, she said. 

If crime is already low, then even a moderate increase can sound like a lot when you’re talking in percentages.

Second, Hessick said, is the historical context. “North Carolina, like the rest of the country, has much lower crime right now than in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s,” she said.

“Crime rates may be going up, but they’re still a lot lower than they were in the late 20th century,” Hessick said.

She said the media tends to focus on these stories when crime rates go up and then talk to politicians and police who may have an ulterior motive to blame funding or their political opponents.

See the full FBI report on national crime rates here.