Rising death toll pushes crime to the top of Charlotte’s agenda

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The two killings reported in Charlotte on Wednesday have pushed the city’s homicide toll to an astonishingly high 27 so far this year.

That’s more than twice the pace of last year’s homicide tally, which itself set a seven-year high. As of early April 2016, 13 homicides had been reported.

The surge in bloodshed has left Charlotte leaders scrambling to come up with answers. Three mayoral candidates have weighed in this week, saying Charlotte needs to make fighting crime a higher priority.

But the homicides in Charlotte defy easy characterization. They’ve occurred all across the city and in many different circumstances, making it difficult to identify strategies to reduce them. In the two killings Wednesday, one was in Steele Creek and the other in east Charlotte. One appeared to be domestic violence-related, and the other did not.

“You can’t find a thread,” City Council member Julie Eiselt told the Agenda on Thursday.

Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles (a Democrat who is running for mayor) said on Twitter on Thursday that she is “deeply concerned” by the killings, but said, “each situation is unique and the root causes are complex.”

City Council member Kenny Smith, running for mayor on the Republican ticket, also said public safety should be a higher priority.

N.C. Sen. Joel Ford, also a Democratic mayoral candidate, went a step further, releasing a plan to curb violence in Charlotte.

His plan includes:

  • Hiring 100 more police officers
  • Raising police officer pay
  • Hiring more administrative staff at CMPD, putting more sworn officers on the streets instead of doing paperwork.
  • Patroling high-crime neighborhoods more intensively
  • Increasing the use of security cameras

But Ford, too, recognized that policing won’t solve the problem. He cited creating more jobs as necessary to reducing crime.

In the meantime, city leaders are floating their own theories about the rising death toll. Are people angrier? Are there too many guns on the street?

“I’m just at a loss,” Eiselt said. “But we need to be talking about it.”

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Andrew Dunn
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