CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, homicide numbers for the first quarter this year are much better than they were at the same time in 2017.
Police say so far this year there have been 16 homicides - compared to 28 this time last year. However, CMPD says no one in the department is celebrating.
"As encouraging as numbers like that are there's nobody in this organization that's doing a victory lap talking about 16 murders even though they're down from 28," said Rob Tufano. "One is one murder too many so we are very mindful of that. No spiking the football here. A perfect world is a world of zero murders."
"Last year I kept saying it was an anomaly," said Chief Kerr Putney. "We were having a lot of people in that year who resorted to guns to settle minor disputes. This year we're not having that level again We're doing some work."
CMPD says of the 16 homicides so far this year:
- Three were domestic violence related
- Six were robberies.
- One was an argument.
- Six are unknown.
Police say seven suspects are teenagers who are 19 years old or younger. Three of those teens are juveniles - just 15 years old.
"What bounced off the page at me is robbery motive," said Lt. Susan Manassah. "So it's kids robbing people for drugs and money so they can do whatever it is they need with that money. Is it shoes? I don't know the reason."
Lt. Manassah said in cases involving teens, the suspects didn't seem mindful of what could happen as a result of their actions.
"Maybe we really need to dial in that piece to hammer home that they are consequences to your actions, that pointing a gun on someone isn't cool. Having a gun in school isn't cool because as quickly as that kid makes that decision I guarantee they would want to take that back," she said. "I'm sure if I had dialed in and talked to this kid like did you really mean to shoot this guy in the back of his head and take his life and now potentially take your life."
Manassah added, "what I've seen sometimes is an over-reaction from the suspect based upon whatever the victim is either a not giving the dope up, not giving the money up what that is – an overreaction."
"It is disheartening but we can't close our eyes to the fact that they are some young people who are taking pretty severe matters into their own hands and having tragic consequences," Chief Putney said. "Let's not fool ourselves that 15, 16-year-olds can't do acts of violence."
CMPD has officers who work with juvenile repeat offenders.
Officer Matthew Teague says the Juvenile Post Offender Strategic Team (J-POST) is a group of officers from every district in the Charlotte who work in partnership with the District Attorney's Office and Department of Juvenile Justice to identify juveniles in the community committing very serious crimes.
"As a juvenile officer what we try to do is help these juveniles realize that they options other than continuing to commit crimes. We do this by trying to get to know the families, working with the juveniles and the families as a team to figure out why they are committing these crimes and what can we as a department do to help them realize that they have better options," he said. "That can be anything from using our connections that we've made in the community to get them a job, activities outside of the home, something to occur their mind and time and just anything that help them realize that the decisions they make today affect them for the rest of their lives."
Teague says the team is working with 61 juveniles.
"I feel like this is working. I personally have a young man that's on my caseload that I brought onto J-POST at the age of 12 years old. This young man when I brought him on had 41 pending felonies in the juvenile system. This young man would take cars basically and drive them all over Charlotte," Officer Teague said. "With the hard work of us and his family and his mother this juvenile has completely turn his life around in a year and half. He is no longer going to an alternative CMS school. He goes to a normal middle school where the staff love him and he's doing great."
Teague says he's hoping more people partner with J-POST to volunteer and meet juveniles who need positive role models in their lives.