CMPD launching community initiative to reduce violent crime

CMPD launching community initiative to reduce violent crime
(Coleen Harry | WBTV)
(Coleen Harry | WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - By the time police come in contact with some criminals, some aspect of that person's life had already broken down or was falling apart. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police believe a new community empowerment initiative will help families and stop people from entering into a life of crime.

"Now it won't be something that we can see tomorrow. But it's definitely something that I feel like in years to come that we'll see the benefit of," said Major Freda Lester.

Major Lester, who on the orders of Chief Kerr Putney, says she put together a plan to bring community partners together.

"We're going to take one family at a time and bring together a collaboration of holistic different partners to deal with all of the problems and concerns that the families have," Major Lester told a gather at the Sugaw Creek Recreation Center. "We're going to work to make them stable, make them whole and to bring the services that we can to make a change for them."

The program is launching in the city's Hidden Valley community.

Police officials say the first step will be a meeting with community members and organizations to find out what services are available and which one are needed. Families can go to a partner organization and request help or be referred.

For example, one community could give the address of a family believed to be in need of services and other partner organizations will go out and make contact with the family.

"We need to fix people. We need to heal families. We need to model community policing at its best," said Chief Putney. "Everybody is in here committed to doing work that will save lives, that will improve person by person, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood in this entire city."

The Chief believes the initiative will reduce crime.

"What's hard to measure is what doesn't happen and based on what we're doing we're preventing,' he said. "Our mission is not to fight crime. It's just one of our strategies. Our mission is to prevent the next crime, especially the next loss of life."

The department says the community empowerment initiative will be in the hands of the community organizations. Officers will attend monthly meetings to talk about the data.

"What we're doing is having stakeholders from each geographic area help drive the work because the accountability has to be at your level. This is your community" Chief Putney said.

Goodwill Industries says it's on board.

Laura Casoni says Goodwill just launched an in initiative focusing on stabilizing families with a holistic approach addressing financial preparedness, health and well being, skills development and career progression.

"It is grounded in a coaching practice that is strength-based so families and individuals actually have a coach that works with them that's going to be a dedicated resource as well as an individual that focuses on a family's basic needs," Casoni said.

The date of the first community meeting has not been set yet.

"I'm honored and glad that they want to launch here in Hidden Valley. This is a program that we already started" said Ella Williams, the president of Hidden Valley Community Association.

Williams told WBTV the community started its own program because they saw a need for it.

"We know if we provide services for the children, we provide services for the parents that's going to provide a stronger family. It's going to reduce crime because parents are not frustrated about how they're going to pay their rent, if they have a place where they can go get some training, know there's a job opportunity," Patterson said. "It's less on the criminal justice system and it's less stigma on the community so it's a win win for everyone."

Williams says she's hoping the new community empowerment initiative will help them find a location where people can go.

"What we need now is a a place to have a wrap around service where people can come to -  a one stop shop place" she said.

Long time Hidden Valley resident John Wall says he has doubts about the community empowerment initiative. He says he wants to hear more details.

"I do not want Hidden Valley perceived as the most violent community in Charlotte – crime is all over" Wall said. "I am saying to be really committed to resolving the violent crime issue is the landowners  - the landlord that own property in Hidden Valley that rent properties to folks they don't care who they rent property to, they just interested in the rent money."

Walls adds, "the folks that live in the homes they have no commitment to the community."

CMPD is counting on community organizations to get answers.

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