CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Public safety is a shared concern. Everyone wants security and safety in their neighborhoods.
For Charlotte, 2017 has been a difficult year in terms of violence. More than 80 people have been killed.
WBTV went out around the city and asked residents about their concerns, and if they could ask Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney anything - what would they ask?
We played the videos with the question for Chief Putney.
"What can be done about some of the crime and stuff going on in the Tuckaseegee Freedom Drive area," asked Darren McKenzie. "There's always something going on. Houses are always being broken into in my neighborhood."
"I don't see a major increase there but what we do see is generally it's a target. I know you. I'm coming after you and some cases I don't know your correct address. I know you through an associate and those are the ones that really bother us because those are the truly innocent people minding their business" Chief Putney responded.
Young people getting into trouble also plague McKenzie's community.
"A lot of youth are out there doing things that are uncalled for. They need to get more people out there patrolling for one thing" McKenzie said.
"We asked for 125 more but just the number of officers is not going to be the full time solution" said Chief Putney. "What he's talking about though are some of the symptoms of kids who do things to occupy their time so our work with the Y and other service providers is trying to fill that void."
More than 800,000 people live in Charlotte. The city's diversity, including sexual orientation, is growing.
"I just participated in the trans gender day of remembrance where we remembered three people from Charlotte who were murdered" one man told WBTV.
"Overall around crime we don't see much of an increase specific to gender in that way but every one is sensationalized, every one of those occurrences and we know is connected to a human life."
The Charlotte resident wants to know "how can police partner with organizations, city government to ensure as we grow we don't negatively affect the marginalized communities – whether that's the LGBTQ community, whether that's communities of color?"
"We've actually taken a proactive step in this area already internally which is a big deal for us as an organization," Chief Putney said. "We have a committee – LGBTQ committee that is advising me, our leadership - of our blind spots so we can better connect."
For some people, contact with police is not an up-close crime related meeting.
"We live in Plaza Midwood NoDa right around here and we had an incident the other night and there is probably 12 officers that responded to just a noise complaint" Tyler Woods said. "What justified sending so many officers. I didn't know the nature of the entire incident but I'd love to know how many officers are sent to a certain place."
The Chief says how many officers show - depends on the nature of the call.
"If somebody is saying we need you now. We need more help right now or they talk about the number of people involved that will scale our response accordingly"
While safety is personal, some folks in Charlotte will tell you there are issues that transcend neighborhood boundaries.
"I would ask him to be transparent in the police department. They work for us. They're part of the city" another man said to the Chief.
To which Putney responded, "that's exactly one of the focuses we've had is being more honest and more open professionally," adding "what I'm not going to do is disclose all the nuisances of an investigation because that would hinder justice. It wouldn't help it."
Out in South Charlotte - near the state line - Ballantyne is home to corporations, shopping, and neighborhoods.
Violent crime is not a major problem in Ballantyne, however, that doesn't mean the community is in a bubble.
"We've had break-ins – one of the first time up here - and it was mostly teenagers found to be involved in drugs," Bryant Beaton told WBTV. "My major concern is drugs. I think they create an environment for the city that go beyond the drug traffic. I think there's prostitution.I think there's violent crime."
Beaton had a question for Chief Putney.
"What techniques are we using? We can't do it all with manpower and what we trying to do to use technology to our advantage to keep an eye on the streets and the businesses," Beaton asked. "You can't have a policeman in all of the neighborhoods but I would more welcome some type of technology for the criminal to understand he could be watched."
We took the question to the chief.
"Philosophically, I don't believe we should have a police state. I - philosophically - don't believe that's the answer, but if it's specific to an address and they are willing we can deploy some cameras we have on a short duration to try to capture people if we think it's going to be a repeat type of offense," Putney said. "For the most part, I'm not going to implement cameras on people's houses. Although, I strongly encourage residents to do so themselves because that gives us some more eyes."
CMPD says there are cameras around the city on major roads. The department also has access to Department of Transportation cameras. Officers in the Real Time Crime Center monitor those cameras, and license plate readers.
"I don't think the role of police is to have our eyes in everybody's business even at your home," Chief Putney said. "I think that's a stretch but we do very proactively monitor the cameras that are along the major corridors throughout our jurisdiction."
Another Ballantyne resident wondered about the violence city-wide.
"Shootings. It's shootings. Every day you listen to the news and people are shooting," the man said. "I think a lot of it has to do with the liquor. They get juiced and start shooting, get crazy. They need to patrol those hot areas."
"The strategy of deploying resources where we have the most crime. That is very important to our strategy of responding to crime," Chief Putney replied. "What we want to do is achieve our mission which is to prevent it so we go where crime is most likely to happen geographically."
The Chief added, "The delicate balance though is you can create a situation where you're being proactive, you're being in an area where you most likely will predict crime to happen and you're impacting the most vulnerable people negatively. You're citing them, you're stopping them, you're doing things also that another segment of the community is not going to appreciate as much. So I get it but it's all of our problem. It's not just, 'go over there and do work in this hot spot.' We have to be proactive all over our community."
Property crime is a big worry in Ballantyne.
"We do have incidents. If you leave your garage door open, a car is gonna come by. Kids are going to try and sell you candy while the other kid steals your stuff out of the garage. You know they do stuff like that. You need to keep your garage doors closed," the resident said.
"We [CMPD] spend a lot of time especially in south Charlotte educating along those lines," Chief Putney said.
"If you can lock your car, if you can take out your valuables, if you can close your garage door you're going to help us reduce crime. It's just that simple. A lot of the property crime is specific to people who are allowing for criminal activity to occur," Putney said.
Sherry Hodgin works in Ballantyne but lives just minutes away in an incorporated area of Mecklenburg County.
"My address is Pineville but it's Mecklenburg County, but when I call the police they say you need to call Pineville. When I call Pineville they say you need to call Charlotte, so I don't ever know who to call when I need a police officer and usually if I'm calling it's some sort of an emergency. It doesn't happen often," she said.
To Hodgin, Chief Putney said, "911 is where she needs to call and we'll figure that out in the back end. It also depends on where she is – if she's at her residence versus if she's out shopping or something else – it is confusing. The jurisdictions change depending on where you are geographically. I understand her concern, but ultimately if you call 911 we're going to find out. We're going to get them right there who are responsible for that response."
In an ever-changing city, the NoDa community has been evolving for a long time.
Sitting in the shadow of uptown, it's a go-to spot, but still prides itself on a neighborhood-feel. It's home to folks who've put down roots, care and keep an eye out.
"If you leave your car out here, leave it unlocked – a lot of people will go in and just take it. Also, home break-ins as well," said Charles Crable, who lives in NoDa.
Crable had a question for Chief Kerr Putney.
"If anything, we were concerned about the patrols and what we can do as a community to go ahead and keep the crime rates down in NoDA."
"Actually, overall our break-ins for larcenies of auto and houses are down slightly. What we're seeing though is a much more concerted effort of those who are committing those crimes to be target-specific," Chief Putney replied. "We're seeing a lot of younger people who are doing it as a concerted effort, but what we're going to do to address it is - the best thing, I think, is a nosy neighbor. We're connecting our community coordinators with communities like NoDa to have a conversation about how to harden the target."
Putney continued, "Then what we're doing is, a lot of areas like that we've started a walking beat. Right now it's part-time. Our intent as we get our staffing up is make those full-time endeavors because we see the benefit of it. And then our officers are there during the day while people are at work. So we have quite a few things up our sleeve that we are starting to do probably in the spring."
In just a matter of time, the light rail will soon be going through NoDa. That means even more people will be coming and going.
Joe Kuhlman of the Evening Muse is one of the business owners who wonders if the light rail will bring more crime.
"What sort of problems or conditions are you anticipating, or what sort of work are you trying to do, to make sure people are still going to be safe and make that transit corridor thrive?" Kuhlman asked Chief Putney.
"We're in the forefront. We had proactive conversations from the beginning," Putney answered. "With CATS [Charlotte Area Transit System], we're talking about what our presence should be and what private security presence should be and we've collaboratively designed a plan."
Police say when the original nine miles of the light rail started, they expected to see a surge in crime along the corridor. That didn't happen, but the chief says the department saw that the transit brought in a concentration of people.
"The other big thing we're doing - organization here - we're going to create a transit division that talks about, and is focused upon, and manages the light rail, our greenways, and a lot of the corridors we're talking about, including the airport," Putney said. "We just want to make sure people feel safe and they are safe."
But when it comes to safety in NoDa, one question came up more than once.
"Have we noticed an increase in car break-ins, just petty theft and things like that? I've noticed people trying to get into cars that aren't theirs. And what are they planning on doing about that?" asked Rachel Hall, who has lived in NoDa for two years.
"We're all telling people when you see something like this you gotta call us, make us aware. Let us get a blue and white out to check that out, see what's going on," Chief Putney responded. "Car break-ins will continue to be an issue for us, because the vast majority of time people are checking handles. They don't have to smash windows that much because too many times people are leaving their cars unlocked."