CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Violent crime in Charlotte is on the rise, with the police chief and district attorney both pointing fingers at repeat offenders - people who commit a crime, go to jail, get back out, then do it all over again.
One Charlotte man wants to give people a new way to look at that revolving door. Arkevious Armstrong has 17 mug shots in his past, and is standing up, saying others can turn their lives around, as he has.
“My first attempted murder charge happened right here,” he says as he walks down the now coincidentally renamed New Beginnings Avenue in Gastonia. “Within 100 feet, I was 19 years old, my second attempted murder charge happened right here.”
Armstrong says crime surrounding him in his early years there was all he had known.
“Drug activities, shooting, the house getting raided,” he recalls. “The mentality we all had here was just survival.”
Between Gastonia and Charlotte, before 20 years old, Armstrong says he had 17 mug shots. His first time was when he was 11 years old.
“Going to school wasn’t going to keep the lights on,” he says. “So, you’re either going to go out and commit a crime, sell drugs or rob or do something to survive.”
As the phrase “repeat offenders” is used more often discussing Charlotte crime, Armstrong stands up, to say – he was one.
“We’re looking at the killing we’re seeing, the spike in Charlotte today,” he says. “People are desperate, and they’re in survival mode right now.”
In Armstrong’s case, it was time behind bars, and a decision, that turned things around.
“Prison changed my life,” he says. “Prison was an opportunity for me to sit, and think, and reflect on the things that I’d done, and what I will be doing when I come home.”
From where he stands now, as a life coach, public speaker, and author, he sees where he believes the system is flawed.
“You’re seeing a lot of young people knowing the system,” he says. “So, ‘I can do this crime, and I know I will probably get house arrest, or just get probation,’ so you have a lot of kids who don’t take the justice system serious.”
Now he is working, and sitting across from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police leaders, hoping to bring young people off paths that look similar to his, at that age.
“It’s so refreshing to be a whole new person, mentally,” he says. “I’m still the same person in flesh, but the way I think, the way I operate, the way my whole mentality moves is totally different.”
When asked what the biggest challenge was that he faced when he got out of prison to keep on the right track, Armstrong says there was not any temptation to commit any more crimes after he made the decision not to, but he says he had a terrible time finding work with his record.
He now works for himself as a life coach, author, and motivational speaker.