CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte city officials would like to see Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police (CMPD) increase its visibility in neighborhoods by having more officers live in the city. To do that, the city is giving a one-time $2500 residency incentive to each officer who lives in Charlotte.
"It's huge. It's a big deal and we hope that it can attract more qualified people as well," said Chief Kerr Putney. "Here's what I've been hearing for four years now from council members and community members: they want to make sure we have empathetic officers who appreciate our city and no better to do that than to incentivize us to live there. It can't be us against them. It has to be all of we and a part of that is giving them $2,500 over two years, so 1,250 per year for the first two years that they establish residency here in our city to become truly a part of the fabric of our city."
CMPD says that so far, about 500 officers are eligible.
Chief Putney says he pushed for the incentive because people in neighborhoods say they want officers to be a part of the community.
"It's something that they expect," said Chief Putney. "Something that they want. I think there's some intrinsic value in it because you're not policing and occupying a community. You're actually a part of it."
Some officers told WBTV the reasons vary why some live outside of Charlotte - from cost of living to taxes to personal safety and anonymity.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fraternal Order of Police says they believe it's a "beneficial program for officers who qualify" but they "hope that in the future that the department would consider Sergeants into the program."
Officer Sirlena June, who joined the department in 2015, lives in Charlotte.
"It just happened that we found a house that we liked," said Officer June. "And it was our first home - starter home and we just ended up staying in Charlotte. We didn't think to move outside of the city."
She says she doesn't patrol her neighborhood.
"I mean my neighbors know what I do but they really don't know what I do because I don't patrol there and they don't see me in my uniform on a regular basis other than possibly running out of my house to get in my car to come to work."
But she likes working and living in the same city.
"This is where you live. This is where you patrol and you want to take care of it," said Officer June. "And make sure – I don't want to say up to par – but it's a nice environment that everybody is living in so you want to keep it clean."
She added, "Keep it crime-free as much as possible. So yeah, I definitely take ownership of being here and wanting it to be a nice place to bring my family that is out of town to come and visit, that they feel OK coming here and not like, 'oh gosh, we're not going there, there is too much crime.'"
Still, Officer June says it's not always easy.
"There has been times when someone you've either arrested or either had some encounter with – they stop and they're like – Officer June and you're like who are you?" she said. "I'm not going to say you're always on alert but you're always watching yourself like who is here. Who is there? Who is coming around? Do I remember this person? But you see so many people you can't remember all the faces."
For her - living and patrolling in Charlotte works.
"Yeah because you want to take care of it," said Officer June.