CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - With the city looking at more than 40 homicides in the first four months of the year, some days it probably seems like no one is doing anything to prevent crime.
But community groups and grassroots organization have been out on the streets trying to stop issues from escalating.
“And interrupting is people that are already in the neighborhood, that know the young people in the neighborhood, that know that there is violence and interceding before things happen,” said Robert Dawkins of Action NC. “So the people in the neighborhood know when people have beef and are warring. They know the spots where people are going to go after the police come and set back up to sell drugs and can go and talk to them.”
Dawkins added “It’s that diffusing it at the community level by people in the community that they know we think has the largest success.”
Dawkins says last year, Action NC led the charge to get the city to set aside $100,000 to share among dozens of community organizations working at the street level with youths on conflict resolution and other anti-violence methods.
“But what we’re seeing is it’s enough money for the city to get the groups to do more one off type events – have a party, knock doors on your community. But it doesn’t allow the groups enough money to build capacity – work on leadership development,” said Dawkins.
On Tuesday, Action NC sent a letter to Charlotte’s Mayor, City Council and City Manager expressing concern about the rising violence.
The coalition wants the city to increase funding to the Jumpstart Safety Micro Grant Program to $500,000 to help more grassroots organizations do the kind of work that would lead to lasting results.
“We believe at the $500,000 level it would because ultimately fighting this crime increase, and the violent crime increase is going be larger than the police reactively doing it and I think we need to spend as much money to have groups that know how to do the work do it proactively,” said Dawkins. “Also more groups. Right now the groups are limited and as we can see - this homicide increase is all over town – not just west side but South Boulevard, Eastside - and also being able to provide the groups with training.”
“What it should be – here is how we can help you with not just money but resources on how to be better interrupters, how to be identify things that are going to be hostile and conflict resolution. And there’s lots of groups in Charlotte that have the skills, they just don’t have the money or time to devote to it because their agendas are already big. So if we can help train people at no cost of our own because we’re not - at Action NC or Center for American Progress or other people – we’re not looking for any money out of it. We’re willing to do the training. We just need to be able to help these groups, support, and build capacity.”
“The council is going to have a few more budget conversations before June when we pass the budget,” said Council member Justin Harlow. “I don’t think anyone is going to be against increasing the number. It’s just what does that number look like – we’ll have to make that determination.”
Harlow says he believes the Jumpstart Safety program has made a difference.
“I think it is working. I think what we’re seeing though is a larger call from the community to do more and invest more” said Council member Harlow. We know we have some great groups working in our community, working to reduce crime, working to mentoring and child and teenager development. We just need to put a little bit more money behind it.”
Harlow says the recent spike in violence has everyone’s attention.
“You know this is so unfortunate. Every day we wake up now it seems there’s another shooting. There’s another killing. Not just shootings but these are fatal things happening. We know a lot of these victims know their perpetrators so this speaks more to what’s going on in these communities. Why are small things kinda escalating to violence so quickly and this is where some of these community groups can come in and help with those types of things?” said Harlow. “So often the policing comes in in the investigation side of things – that’s too late at that point. A lot of these things are homegrown. They’re domestic issues or they’re small neighborhood issues so that speaks more to a deeper cultural thing and that’s where nonprofits can step in, that’s where educators and social workers can step in ways the police can’t.”