After Charlotte had 108 homicides in 2019, City Council discussed Monday what it said is a new data-driven way of studying violent crime.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department told council members it plans to use data to look at crime in part as a public health issue. And the department said it can’t lower violent crime on its own.
The department showed council a map of violent crime “hot spots” in the city. Most are in the so-called crescent of lower-income neighborhoods that are west, north and east of uptown.
CMPD said the four worst hot spots are at Beatties Ford Road and LaSalle Street, Sugar Creek Road and Interstate 85, Central Avenue and North Sharon Amity Road, and Nations Ford Road and Arrowood Road. Police said there were 14 killings in three of those areas last year, though the Central Avenue area had no homicides.
Those four areas comprise a total of two square miles in the city, which is 438 square miles. But those small parts of the city – less than 1% of the city’s landmass – comprised 8% of violent crime.
CMPD Deputy Chief Gerald Smith said the biggest problems in the Sugar Creek Road cluster are 13 hotels and motels that cater to a transient population. He said prostitution is a problem in the area, and that prostitution leads to secondary crimes, like robbery and assault.
“You get robbery reports, you get physical assault reports,” Smith said. “You get a myriad of things.”
In the past, the city has bought and demolished low-income hotels that were seen as hotspots for crime. The city has done that on Independence Boulevard across from Bojangles’ Coliseum and on Wilkinson Boulevard near the airport.
Smith told council members there are many “hard-working families” who live in the hotels.
On Arrowood Road area, Smith said many of the victims are Hispanic, and they are targeted for armed robbery because they often carry cash. He said there are communication barriers that make policing difficult, and that many crimes are probably not reported.
The language barrier is a similar problem in the Central Avenue corridor. Smith said there are high numbers of armed robberies in the area.
In the Beatties Ford Road/LaSalle area, Smith said there is a large amount of drug dealing, and a homeless population contributes to the crime rate.
The homicide rate was 11.6 per 100,000 people in 2019. It was much higher in 1993 – 28.9.
CMPD said 25% of homicides last year resulted from an argument.
“That is increasing,” said the city’s data and analytics director, Rebecca Hefner. “More and more of the homicides are the result of arguments.”
She said violent crime related to arguments tends to spread like a contagion.
Three of five victims were black and three of five were male.
The city said it has researched “evidence-based” programs from other cities that it says can reduce crime. It's working with Johns Hopkins University to analyze the data.
City Council member Ed Driggs said he wasn't impressed by the report.
"I personally didn’t see anything that surprised me," Driggs said. "I didn’t see anything that made me go, 'Wow, I didn’t know that then I would have done this. And that’s what we need.'"