CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The end of 2020 is a heavy one for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department while they investigate 123 homicides, a record number of killings for the city in a single year.
CMPD is reminding the community the number represents 123 lives lost to violent crime in Charlotte in 2020, leaving hundreds of families mourning and a countless number of lives changed forever. It paints a painful and tragic picture of the level of fatal violence in the city.
“I don’t know why someone would pick up a gun to solve a problem,” said Lt. Bryan Crum at a CMPD press conference on Wednesday morning. “We have 123 community members We lost. An impact of a homicide can’t be measured in a number.”
On the afternoon of Tuesday, Dec. 29, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said it was responding to the scene of a homicide at an apartment complex in the northeast part of the city.
This would potentially mark the 123rd homicide of 2020 in Charlotte.
CMPD sometimes rules what was once considered a homicide as justified, which alters the homicide rate. Most recently, CMPD ruled one of 2020′s fatal shootings as justified.
Such was the case with Charlotte’s deadliest year for homicides - 1993. That year was previously believed to have had 129 homicides in the city. Now it is 122 homicides for the year 1993.
Although 2020 is the highest number of homicides in Charlotte history, it’s important to note comparing Charlotte in 1993 and in 2020 is hard to do when you take in the huge population growth over the last two decades. Per capita, the homicide rate is about half in 2020 than what it was in 1993.
But still, 123 people killed is a new record weighing heavily on CMPD.
“It’s senseless. It’s hard to put an explanation on why someone would pick up a gun to solve a problem that to you and me seems insignificant,” Lt. Crum said. “But in the heat of the moment people make impulsive decisions and we’re seeing the results of that.”
Charlotte’s police chief shared a message as the city has reached a potential all-time high for homicides in a year in 2020.
On Tuesday afternoon, Chief Jennings tweeted, calling the numbers “devastating and unfortunate.”
“The number of homicides this year is devastating and unfortunate. Some people are quick to resort to deadly force as a method to solving their problems,” Chief Jennings said. “We are committed to preventing and solving these crimes and working with the community on finding alternate solutions to resolve conflict.”
Lt. Crum said he couldn’t pin point a reason for the spike in violent crime, instead saying too many young people were using guns to handle disagreements.
He estimated about 60% of CMPD’s suspects are under the age of 24.
“I think its people’s willingness to resort to a firearm for really minor things,” he said.
The homicide rate is taking a great toll on officers, the community and family members who have lost a loved one.
“Time and time again, it’s a small percentage in our city that are involved in a large quantity of the violent crime so we see significant overlap,” Lt. Crum said.
Police are targeting that overlap by expanding their use of the NIBIN program - or the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network.
The program tracks guns and bullets from crime scene which police say leads to the arrest of dangerous criminals. Most recently they’ve used it to help identify guns used in the Beatties Ford shooting in June.
Back in May 2020, CMPD said they had seen an increase in violent crime over a month-and-a-half span despite the coronavirus pandemic keeping people indoors.
On Monday, Dec. 28, officials reported that arrests were only down 16 percent as violent crimes have continued to rise in Charlotte. Between January and November of 2019 there were 99 homicides compared to 111 this year.
“One of the impacts that we’ve seen with COVID-19 is that because of restrictions, because of people staying at home, now if I have an online dispute with you or beef with you, I may know that you’re at home. So I’m going to drive by your house and maybe even pull a gun out and shoot at your house,” CMPD Major Brian Foley said.
But the biggest challenges in 2021 might not be COVID-19 related but instead due to Charlotte’s ballooning population. A report given to the Safe Communities committee highlights that Charlotte’s growth is outpacing the department’s size and that calls and violent crime are continuing to increase.
“It’s not easy, but we need people to be able to come forward to put on this badge and represent your community, represent Charlotte,” Major Foley said.