LAURINBURG — Laurinburg is an extremely scary place —at least on the Internet.
Websites like Roadsnacks.net, lists the county seat as the fourth most dangerous place in North Carolina. Critics of Laurinburg municipal leaders cite the same statistics when arguing that not enough is being done to curb crime.
But is Laurinburg really more dangerous that places like Fayetteville or Charlotte or Raleigh?
The answer depends on who you ask.
The Rev. Michael Edds agrees that the city is a dangerous place and said so when he addressed the Laurinburg City Council in December.
“Laurinburg is the fourth most dangerous place in the state,” said Edds, who got his information from several Internet sources that used FBI data. “I’ve asked council to deal with this crime rate for three years and it keeps going up.”
Edds said council has failed to take a proactive approach to fighting crime.
“They can’t hide their heads in the sand that there isn’t a problem.” he said.
For Laurinburg Police Chief Darwin “Duke” Williams, the city is hardly a lawless cesspool of crime and violence.
“You might have violent crimes up one year and the next year it could be down,” Williams said “We utilize the stats to help gauge our efforts and our initiatives in fighting crimes.”
Williams’ department reported to the State Bureau of investigation in 2016 that there were about 201 cases of violent crime in the city.
About 40 miles away in Fayetteville, there were 1,531 cases of violent crime reported during the same period in 2016, according to the SBI report.
Yet Fayetteville did not make the list despite having more than seven times as many reported incidents.
A city like Henderson that has a population of 15,249, was ranked as the seventh most dangerous place in North Carolina by Roadsnacks. It had 160 reported cases of violence crimes in 2016, according to the SBI.
Williams said it is because most websites — like Roadsnack and Neighborhood Scout — often calculate the data for per 100,000 residents. He said that can skew how the figures are viewed.
“I do have a concern with how the stats are calculated,” Williams said. “The city of Laurinburg has approximately 16,000 citizens and our stats are calculated at 100,000 population.”
Looking at violent crime per 100,000 people, puts Laurinburg’s ratio at about 1, 303 cases per 100,000 people, according to Kevin Parsons, a vice president for instruction at Richmond Community College. Laurinburg’s number is closer to 130 cases per 10,000 people, he said.
Fewer people, more crime
But websites like the Durham-based site, Roadsnacks, argue that a smaller population can also mean more crime per person.
“In larger cities, you’re a fish in a big pond, but in these smaller towns that already see plenty of crime, you’re a big fish in a small pond and more likely to be targeted,” the website said.
In Roadsnacks’s most recent rankings, Laurinburg was again listed at the fourth spot. Lumberton was in first place, followed Oxford and Kinston.
The site said its criteria includes reports from 2016 for violent crime and property crime.
“In order to make the analysis as apples to apples as possible, we only considered cities over 5,000 in population,” Roadsnacks.net said.
Still the websites also have their own detractors who question the rankings as a way to get people to click on sites.
News and Observer columnist Barry Saunders was incensed when Roadsnacks listed his native Rockingham was a terrible place to live.
“Some website ranking the worst places in which to live in North Carolina recently ranked Rockingham, my hometown, at No. 2,” Saunders wrote. “It’s funny, but No. 2 is precisely what I thought about the study.”
The same website listed Laurinburg as the ninth “most ghetto” place in North Cariolina for 2018. The criteria for that designation include crime statistics; household income levels; high school graduation rates; number of convenience stores; number of drug stores; number of discount stores; and Twitter mentions of #ghetto
Reach Katelin Gandee at 910-276-2311