RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Since Gerald Baker took over as Wake County’s sheriff, he says his office has been receiving far fewer calls about one specific type of crime.

Baker faces Willie Rowe, a former major in the county’s sheriff’s office, in a runoff July 26 for the Democratic nomination with the winner facing Republican Donnie Harrison in the general election in November.

But do Baker’s numbers add up? And if there is a drop, just how much credit does he deserve for it?

THE CLAIM: In an interview with CBS 17 on June 29, Baker said “burglaries are down some 60 percent — 59.5 percent now — since we’ve been in office.”

THE FACTS: Wake County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Eric Curry said that rate was based on the raw numbers of burglaries that reported to the sheriff’s office from Dec. 3, 2014, to Dec. 2, 2018 — when Donnie Harrison had the top job — and after Baker was sworn in on Dec. 3, 2018.

Updated numbers provided by Curry show a total of 1,057 burglaries from the start of Baker’s term through Tuesday. There were 2,466 of them under Harrison — a drop of 57 percent.

Curry says the 60 percent figure Baker brought up predated the addition of a “string of thefts and burglaries” in the county in May and June.

So, the math checks out. 

But is that because of something Baker has done during his time on the job?

“I'm skeptical about whether any one police agency can take credit,” said Philip Cook, a professor emeritus of public policy at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and an expert on crime and crime prevention.

That’s because of the similar decline in burglaries reported to Raleigh police during a comparable time frame.

They fell 52 percent from the previous four-year period (2015-18) to the current one, according to the department's crime data.

A total of 6,861 burglaries were reported in Raleigh from 2015-18, compared to 3,290 from 2019-22.

“The smart money in trying to explain what's going on starts with the observation that it's not just Wake County. It’s not just Raleigh,” Cook said. “The entire nation is experiencing an extraordinary reduction in burglary rates in residential break-ins.”

So if it’s not something the sheriff has done, then what could be behind the drop?

A small but not insignificant part could be that the burglary totals under Harrison covered four full years while those for Harrison only covered three years and seven months — a total of 143 fewer days.

Another factor actually could be COVID-19.

Baker has been sheriff through the entirety of the pandemic, and national trends show certain crimes like burglaries were down during both 2020 and 2021.

The statistics from the sheriff’s department were only available in those four-year clusters, but those provided by Raleigh Police can be broken down by year.

The 771 residential burglaries in the city were the fewest of any full year during the 8 1/2-year period that was examined, and it was only marginally higher (889) in 2021.

“People were staying home, protecting their property,” Cook said. “And so, again, it was hard to get away with burglary, and so we saw this amazing reduction.”

Another explanation: The rise in home security systems have become more of a deterrent to burglars, Cook said.

“It’s just much harder to break into a home and get away with it than it used to be,” he said.

“I'd say maybe the real answer here is more about technology and about routine activities of the public than it is about some big breakthrough and policing,” he added.