Violent crime in Charlotte was up sharply during the first three months of the year, compared with a year ago. That's according to statistics out Wednesday from Charlotte Mecklenburg Police.
Murder, robbery, assault and other violent crimes had been on the decline in Charlotte and across the U.S. over the past decade or so. More recently it has been ticking back up, so CMPD is concerned.
“Eight years ago, we began a very precipitous decline in our crime numbers that we're very proud of,” Deputy Chief Jeff Estes said at CMPD’s weekly crime briefing Wednesday.
“You know, as much as we'd like to take credit for that, and a lot of things that go into reduction in crime numbers ... And so we have to take responsibility, some of it, when crime goes back up,” Estes said.
Overall crime was up 4.5 percent compared with the same period a year ago. Violent crimes are rising faster – at 14.4 percent.
A big jump in murders is part of that increase. So far this year, 30 people have been murdered in Charlotte. Last year at this time, the number was 16.
“What we believe, and what we see is that people, for whatever reason, want to solve their disputes through violence, increasingly handguns. So they think nothing of shooting rounds off in a neighborhood at each other,” Estes said.
There's a bit of a bright spot: Nearly three-quarters of those murders have been solved. That may be because many involved people who knew each other. Many were related to drug deals, and some grew out of domestic violence.
Other categories with big increases included: robberies (up 20.1 percent), aggravated assaults (up 12.4 percent), and car thefts (up 11 percent). Burglaries were up 19 percent overall, but the biggest factor was a 68 percent increase in burglaries from businesses. Residential burglaries were up just 1.5 percent.
Larcenies were down 2.2 percent overall, but car break-ins were up, by 9.5 percent.
There were 55 arson fires, up 14.6 percent from 48 a year ago.
One of the few crimes to decline was rape - 74 were reported in the first quarter, three fewer than a year ago.
CMPD officials spent time at Wednesday’s briefing talking about successes.
Estes said CMPD has helped cut back on crime by beefing up patrols in high-crime areas, what the department calls its "Avalanche" program.
He also noted that police made quick arrests in 16 burglary cases in the past few weeks. He said officers responded quickly and chased down suspects at the scene.
“A lot of them (officers) ran them down on foot, with helicopters overhead, the dark of night, confusion, and they still were able to make catches,” Estes said. “And let me tell you, that means that there's victims out there who will, at least we hope, get to see some justice.”
And Sgt. Celestine Ratliff presented information about CMPD's Juvenile Diversion Program. It lets first-time non-violent offenders ages 6 to 17 avoid jail time by participating in education and community service. She said more than 80 percent of the youths referred to the program do not return to the criminal justice system within a year.
CMPD plans a Youth Symposium June 3 at the Police Fire & Training Academy on Shopton Road.
COMMENT ON RAISES
Estes also was asked to comment on news reports this week that the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police wants the city to do more to support officers, including providing bigger raises.
"You ask any cop do we need more cops, and they'll tell you, yeah, absolutely," Estes said.
As far as whether council is doing enough to support police, he said that varies from officer to officer. "I would be very cautious to say any one speaks for every rank-and-file member," Estes said.
He said he thinks the public and city council are fairly supportive. He welcomed the city's plan to add 62 officers in next year's budget.
May 10, 2017, CMPD handouts on 1st Quarter 2017 Crime Statistics and the Juvenile Diversion program, which gives youth 6-17 a second chance by participating in education and community service. (PDF)