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Charlotte Homicides Drop For The First Time Since 2014

North Carolina Gun Memorial

Charlotte saw a nearly 35 percent decrease in homicides last year. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say there were 57 homicides in 2018, down from 87 in the previous year.

2017 was a particularly deadly year in Charlotte, raising concerns across communities and leading police to search for ways to reduce the violence. At a Jan. 11 news conference, Police Chief Kerr Putney talked about the declining crime rate in Charlotte (which, overall, was down about 2 percent) and attributed 2018’s decrease in homicides, in part, to shifts in department policy.

Related story: CMPD Releases 2018 Crime Stats

Putney said CMPD is focusing on proactively assisting people prior to a crisis. He said about 700 officers, that's about 40 percent of the department, have been through crisis intervention training — with more expected to take the training in the new year. Putney also said CMPD is focusing on “de-escalation and communication” techniques when responding to a crisis.

But despite the significant decrease in last year’s homicide number, Putney said the number of homicides is still unacceptable.

“We had a reduction of 35 percent in 2018. And everyone wants to focus on that number, and that bothers me,” Putney said. “Unless we’re dividing by zero, that number shouldn’t really matter. We should not have any people intentionally taking the lives of others in a criminal way.”

Related story: Charlotte Homicides In 2018 - A Look At The Victims

WFAE has been tracking Charlotte homicides for the past two years. Here’s a deeper look at the homicide numbers:

Gender: Of those killed in Charlotte in 2018, the overwhelming majority of the victims were male. Forty-five men and 12 women were killed.

When compared to the previous year, the trend holds. In 2017, 70 victims were male and 17 were women.

Related story: Charlotte Homicides In 2017 - A Look At The Victims

Age Of The Victims: Despite the declining number of homicides in 2018, the age breakdown of the victims remained largely the same. The largest group of homicide victims in both 2017 (blue) and 2018 (green) were in the 18 to 24 age range.

Race: In 2017 and 2018, a majority of homicide victims in Charlotte were black. That held true despite the declining homicide rate.

Racial data from 2017 and 2018 reflects national trends. Center for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that communities of color are disproportionally affected by homicide, with the homicide rate among black victims roughly quadruple that of the overall homicide rate. 

Use Of Guns: In 2018, 47 homicides involved firearms. Ten involved other causes of death.

That trend holds from the previous year. In 2017, 64 deaths involved guns while 23 involved other causes of death.

Domestic Violence: In both years, domestic violence played a role in homicides in Charlotte. In 2018, nine homicides were related to incidents of domestic violence — 16 percent. That percentage is down from the previous year, where 21 homicides involved issues of domestic violence — almost a quarter of the total homicides.

Homicides By Month: June was the deadliest month in 2017 (depicted in blue), with 11 homicides. In 2018 (shown in green), September saw the largest number of homicides —seven.

Clearance Rate: Cleared cases are the ones law enforcement can close in one of two ways: through an arrest or by “exceptional means.” Clearing a case by exceptional means occurs when police must close the case without making a formal arrest — which can happen for a number of reasons, such as the death of the offender.

In 2018, CMPD cleared 43 homicide cases, while 14 remain open. That’s a 75 percent clearance rate for the year. According to the FBI, the national clearance rate is about 59 percent.

Despite the 2017 spike in homicides, CMPD has maintained its clearance rate. In 2017, 65 cases were closed and 22 remain open (that’s about 75 percent). In 2016, 53 cases were closed and 16 remain open (about 77 percent clearance rate).

Location: In 2018, most of the 57 homicides occurred within the Interstate 485 loop — with only a few outliers taking place near Steele Creek and Ballantyne.

Most 2017 homicides also occurred within the I-485 loop, with outliers in north Charlotte near Highland Creek, south near Steele Creek and west going toward Mount Holly.

Jessa O’Connor was an assistant digital news editor and Sunday reporter for WFAE.