Last week, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina’s murder rate declined 3.8 percent in 2012. (Read the news story.) These latest numbers continued the trend of declining homicide rates — and proved once again that there is no link between the death penalty and public safety.
2012 was, after all, the first year in which North Carolina not only didn’t execute anyone but also did not sentence a single person to death. Yet, murder rates continued to drop. Since 2006, the last time an execution was carried out, the state’s homicide rate has declined from 6.2 murders per 100,000 people to 5.1. In the past decade, as capital prosecutions and death sentences have dropped sharply, the violent crime rate has fallen by more than 20 percent.
If the death penalty were truly a deterrent to crime, as many of its supporters contend, we would expect the opposite trend in a state where executions have been stalled for seven years and death sentences are at an all-time low.
The truth is that crime is suppressed by good law enforcement and crime prevention programs (Cooper said so himself), not by the threat of executions. However, state budget cuts are now putting those crime suppression programs at risk. Here’s a solution: divert the millions spent each year on the death penalty to helping law enforcement continue and expand the work that is truly keeping our citizens safer.