Charlotte’s violent crime declined in 2021, gun seizures increased | DFA 90.7
After Charlotte saw two years of an increase in violent crime, 2021 has been a relief. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police say violent crime fell 7% last year from 2020. And overall crime is down 5%. The ministry released the figures on Monday as part of its year-end report.
Lisa Worf from the WFAE joins Sarah Delia in breaking down the numbers.
Sarah Délia: Lisa, what do we know about these decreases in violent crime?
Lisa Worf: First, let me put the numbers in context. Violent crime has increased significantly. In 2020, there was a 16% increase and Charlotte almost hit her homicide record for the year – 118.
This year, thefts, aggravated assaults and homicides have all declined. 18% homicides, but there were still 98. That’s still a lot more than six or seven years ago. To put it into perspective, in 2015, they were 60.
Police chief Johnny Jennings has said he expects the number of homicides last year to decline, with some deemed justified.
Now, reported rapes have increased 19% this year. Jennings said he believed part of it was because schools were open and students had a better chance of reporting them to counselors.
Délia: Do city leaders attribute efforts or initiatives to reducing violent crime?
Worf: Jennings noted that gun violence has fueled a lot of crime in Charlotte. Yesterday he spoke about the work of a team of detectives across units known as the Gun Suppression Team. The team was created last year.
Johnny Jennings (recording): Everything they do is intentional to ensure that we are not targeting just that person, but also any guns they may have in their possession. And they’ve been very successful in their first full year of being able to do this.
Worf: Jennings said officers seized nearly 3,000 illegal firearms last year. That’s a 33% increase from 2020. And this team seized 155 of those it said were involved in the most violent crimes.
Délia: We have heard a lot about the Safe Charlotte initiative. Was that mentioned while the chief was talking about crime statistics?
Worf: Yes he did during the discussion with city council. It’s a plan the city has adopted to, as city officials have called it, reinvent policing and community safety. As part of this, community groups received grants to help make Charlotte safer. Robert Dawkins of Safe Coalition NC says the numbers show this is a return on that investment, but also a larger community organizing footprint.
Robert Dawkins (recording): Usually we hear about what’s wrong. But today we see if the city, if the organized community is continuing this, this is the direction we want them to keep going.
Worf: And he noted that homicides were on the decline not only in Charlotte, but in specific areas known as hot spots.
Now Darrell Gregory, who heads Youth Based Strategies for Mecklenburg County, says many small community groups working to reduce violence have been overlooked by the CMPD, the city, county and schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
Darrell Grégory: You have organizations and individuals that have the bandwidth to be effective, not only by funding friends of senior people and decision makers, but also effective individuals and organizations. We don’t even look at them seriously.
Délia: Now, over the past couple of years, we’ve heard a lot about teenagers involved in crime. How was last year?
Worf: We don’t have the numbers for that yet, but Jennings says they’re working on it. But, yes, we’ve certainly heard from a lot of Charlotte teens who are victims of violent crime and also accused of them. Jennings said this will continue to be the focus of the department’s efforts this year. He told city council last night that many guns found in schools were not coming from student homes.
Jennings (recording): It’s scary to me, as I mentioned earlier, that a 13, 14 or 15 year old could have access to a gun and make a few phone calls and have access to him.
Worf: Beyond trying to get illegal guns off the streets, he said efforts targeting minors will include educating teens and their families and providing gun locks. He pointed out that CMPD had just launched an on-campus Crime Stoppers program that offers students rewards of up to $ 500 for tips leading to the confiscation of a firearm.
Délia: What other priorities does Jennings say CMPD has for this coming year?
Worf: Recruitment is important. Jennings says the department has up to 200 downtime agents. He says 2024 will be the most difficult year, as so many officers are expected to retire in the next few years. Jennings says the ministry has aggressively tried to strengthen this. The ministry’s year-end report indicates that a recruitment campaign generated 2,300 applications and 135 new hires.
Délia: And, Lisa, I understand there is an embargo on these statistics.
Worf: Yes, Chief Jennings had a press conference earlier yesterday on the year-end report. The CMPD put all information under embargo until Jennings presented the report to city council last night. CMPD has done this sometimes in the past, but I noticed it for the first time yesterday. The department declined to comment on its reasoning, but wording on the City of Charlotte’s embargo says it allows fair and equal access to content and gives media an opportunity to ask questions and “report back. accurately on business while ensuring that advertising appears before the material is accessible to internal stakeholders as well as the public. But it is also such a strict embargo that it is difficult to share information with sources for comment.
Délia: This is Lisa Worf from the WFAE. Thanks, Lisa.
Worf: Thank you.