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Charlotte Talks: Violence As Public Health Crisis

Pixabay/F. Muhammad

Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020

Getting tough on crime may not be the answer to Charlotte’s homicide problem. Instead, the city is beginning to face the crisis the way a doctor might treat a disease.

There were 107 homicides in Charlotte last year – the most in a single year since 1993. Compared to 57 homicides in 2018, the Charlotte murder rate has increased 88%. Overall crime has increased as well, with CMPD noting a 5.9% increase in index offenses, property crime increasing by 4.9% and violent crime increasing by 11.5%.

In response, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police stated they were making more arrests and removing more guns from the streets. Police Chief Kerr Putney condemned judges for granting bail to people charged with murder and dismissing a significant amount of criminal charges.

Critics worry a surge in policing is not the answer, and the city of Charlotte is beginning to take a new approach.

City Council is beginning to look at violence as if it were a disease and may begin to treat it as a public health crisis. The county health department is initiating a "comprehensive approach to address violence as a public health issue," and Mayor Vi Lyles says the City Council’s Safe Communities Committee will have a report in 60 days.

Cure Violence is an organization that treats violence like an epidemic disease, and like an epidemic, they suggest, it can be effectively prevented using health methods. One notable success story was in West Garfield Park, one of the most violent communities in Chicago, where they reduced shootings by 67% in its first year.

We talk to a representative from this organization, a member of City Council, and a trauma surgeon with first-hand experience in the epidemic.


Charlie Ransford, senior director of science and policy for Cure Violence Global

Dr. David Jacobs, medical director of trauma services for Atrium Health, trauma surgeon at F.H. “Sammy” Ross Jr. Trauma Center, Carolinas Medical Center

Malcolm Graham, Charlotte City Council representative, District 2

Jesse Steinmetz is Producer of Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Before joining WFAE in 2019, he was an intern at WNPR in Hartford, Connecticut and hosted a show at Eastern Connecticut State University.