“Groundhog Day” - Charlotte council starts discussion on reducing violent crime

Published: Jan. 6, 2020 at 11:46 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte City Council kicked off 2020 by focusing on the biggest problem they faced in 2019: homicides. Council received a deep dive into the data behind the violence before voicing frustration the problem hadn’t been properly addressed before, and optimism that they could do better this time.

The focus on the violent crime problem comes after Mayor Vi Lyles promised council would address the issue during her swearing-in ceremony. Tonight, was the first meeting briefly discussing how data could help the city identify evidence-based approaches to reducing violence.

Some of the data that stuck out:

- 25 percent of homicides in 2019 resulted from an argument, a spike over previous years.

- 26 percent of the perpetrators, so far, have previous felony convictions.

- Four hot spots (Beatties Ford/Lasalle, I-85/Sugar Creek, Nations Ford/Arrowood, Central/Sharon Amity) account for eight percent of violent crime in the city even though it’s just a small fraction of the total jurisdiction of CMPD.

But Robert Dawkins with Action NC says the data on the neighborhoods isn’t new or particularly helpful.

“Folks just aren't getting shot off I-85, folks aren't just getting shot on Arrowood, folks are getting shot all around town,” Dawkins said.

However city staffers explaining the data and some of the new evidence-based approaches seemed to understand Dawkins point.

Rebecca Hefner, a data and analytics officer with the city, says they are looking to address violent crime through a public health model, which means focusing more on treating individuals and less on specific areas.

City staff only briefly discussed different methods to address the violent crime. One of the models was called “violence interruption programs.” Hefner and others said in other cities that implemented this model resources invested into helping people reach conflict resolution instead of resorting to violence. It would focus on the most at-risk populations and work with wrap-around social services.

But city council members stressed that this couldn’t be done in a day and would require their long term attention.

Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt voiced her frustration that different measures have been taken to address violent crime before but with few results.

“This is like groundhog,” Eiselt said.

“I’ll keep getting mad and getting noisier about it,” Eiselt told WBTV.

“It’s an incredibly frustrating situation because then you’re starting from scratch all over again trying to figure out the problems.”

Other highlights from the meeting:

- Councilman Malcolm Graham said that the city would need to work collaboratively with the county and other agencies to solve the problem. Mayor Vi Lyles, Mayor Pro Tem Eiselt City Manager Marcus Jones, Mecklenburg County Commission Chair George Dunlap and other county leaders plan to discuss the issue soon.

- Councilman Braxton Winston requested data on the impact legalizing marijuana would have on violent crime. Deputy Chief Gerald Smith said marijuana drug deals played a large part in some of the homicides because the value of marijuana has sky rocketed from $1,000/ln to $5,000/lb.

- Councilwoman Dimple Ajmera requested more data on how access to firearms plays a part in violent crime.

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