Crime is down in Charlotte, where do leaders put criminal justice dollars?

By Sharon Smith - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A year and a half ago, neighbors marched through downtown Charlotte demanding more dollars to fight crime. They got more police, and more assistant district attorneys.

Now the conversation has changed, or at least shifted.

In 2010, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department reports crime is down. The public outcry over high crime has turned to a hush.

It's up to members of the Criminal Justice Citizen's Advisory Committee to interpret how lower crime stats translate to funding and priorities for county government.

That's part of the on-going discussion for members of the committee, who meet every month at the Government Center. They are preparing a report to submit to the County Commission in June.

Monday night, the committee asked for insight from people who work in the system: prosecutors, judges, and probation workers.

They were asked to respond to this question, among others: How do you perceive the accuracy of the crime and public safety statistics and data being provided to the public?

They have much to consider. The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department reports crime was down in all divisions for 2009. The crime reductions were significant, 18-percent lower when it comes to property crimes; 21-percent lower when it comes to violent crime.

At the same time, the caseload for Mecklenburg County Assistant District Attorneys is up. New numbers from the Administrative Office of the Courts, which tracks cases filed across the state, shows several hundred more felony cases from July 2008 through June 2009. The AOC report shows the number of burglary cases jumped by 443, larcenies by 434, but robberies went down by 129 cases filed.

Committee Chair Mark Sumwalt says they are trying to get a handle on what all the numbers mean and where to place priorities. The next few months will be their crunch time.