ROBESON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTW) — Law enforcement and the Robeson County District Attorney’s Office are reacting to the county being ranked No. 1 in North Carolina for violent crime and property crime rates.

2022 crime stats recently released from the North Carolina SBI showed that Robeson County had the highest overall crime rate for the third straight year, increasing by 12.5% since 2021.

Rowland Police Chief Herbert Graham said drug abuse has contributed to the high violent crime and property crime rates in the area.

“The dealers, they’re expecting payment and when they don’t get their payment, they assault the subjects they [gave] the drugs to on credit,” he said.

Graham said users also commit crimes to buy more drugs.

“They’ve got to have some means of getting it, buying it,” he said. “They’re not working.”

District Attorney Matthew Scott said the county uses programs like the Adult Drug Treatment Program to try and fix the issue.

Scott also said “show me a county with high crime rates, and I guarantee that county is also low performing in schools and in employment rates.”

For the 2021-2022 school year, the Public Schools of Robeson County was designated a North Carolina “low performing” district, with 20 of its 35 schools receiving a grade of D or lower.

Graham also attributes high crime rates to court backlog.

“It’s hard to deter somebody from doing a crime when you arrest him today and he’s out tomorrow and he’s out for another three years before he eventually goes to court,” he said.

Scott said the county has been working with the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office and other entities to fix the court backlog caused by the high crime rates, an employee shortage and pandemic delays.

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Aundrea Gibbons joined the News13 team in May 2023 after graduating from Clemson University with bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and communication. Aundrea is a Marion native and graduated as salutatorian in 2019. Follow Aundrea on X, formerly Twitter, and read more of her work here.