2019 and 2020 marked some of Charlotte’s deadliest years in decades, but 2021 did not follow the same pattern.
With rising national crime rates, calls for police reform, and guns showing up in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, many eyes are on public safety. On Monday, CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings shared his department’s annual progress report.
1 big thing: Crime is down by 5%.
- The total number of arrests were down by 4%.
- Homicides were down by 18%, with a total of 98 in 2021. 2020 saw 117 homicides. 2019 saw 108.
Of note: Some of 2021’s homicides may later be classified as “justified,” which may bring the number down.
According to this year’s report, violent crime was down by 7% in 2021 compared to 2020. Chief Jennings credits, in part, their Violent Criminal Apprehension Team (VCAT) for that reduction.
- “Last year they arrested nearly 300 violent suspects,” Chief Jennings said. He listed violent suspects as people who committed murder, attempted murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and other crimes.
Yes, but: Some crimes did increase, like rape, which was up 19%. In presenting to Charlotte City Council on Monday night, Jennings attributed much of the increase to students returning to school, where they often report rape to a teacher, counselor or school resource officer.
2. CMPD confiscated a lot more guns.
Gun seizures were up by 33% compared to 2020.
- “That translates to 3,000 illegal guns taken off the streets,” Jennings said.
The department’s new Gun Suppression Team (CGST) is credited with arresting 162 people and recovering 23 guns.
- The gun suppression team is made up of members from their Gang Unit, Shooting Into Occupied Dwelling Task Force, and TRAP unit.
- The CGST was created in 2021 specifically to reduce and prevent gun-related crimes.
3. Juvenile crime continues to be a challenge and priority going into 2022.
Chief Jennings says that CMPD has more than 25 programs that cater to youth in the community to help curb violent crime rates.
- Yes, but: Jennings says we have to come up with solutions so kids and teens don’t get access to guns in the first place, whether that be by educating them and their parents, or by making sure the guns are secure.
- Jennings also said people in the community can also do more, like helping the other organizations in our community that cater toward youth violent prevention.
Go deeper: Earlier this month we reported that CMS found 23 guns on school campuses so far this school year.
4. CMPD expanded and made internal changes.
In 2021, CMPD opened their South Division and their University Division, which are state-of-the-art locations that serve thousands in their respective communities.
They also opened their de-escalation training facility with the help of the FBI.
- This facility puts officers in real-life situations that help them train with de-escalation.
- In 2021, the department made changes to 35 policies and directives.
They launched the CMPD Serves program for all employees, as a response to a local and national outcry for police reform.
- 2,000 employees are trained so far in the Serves program.
- “The goal is to improve communication techniques to have better outcomes that officers may have on a daily basis,” said Jennings.
5. Recruitment and retention are top priorities.
The big picture: Applications were down 26% during the first four months of 2021 compared to the same period last year, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department spokesperson Rob Tufano told Axios last summer.
- Plus, because of COVID-19, there is a shortage of about 200 officers on any given week, according to Jennings.
Flashback: In the early ’90s, there was a big push to hire 125 new CMPD officers — Chief Jennings remembers because he was one of them.
- He says a lot of those officers are retiring soon and predicts 2024 will be their most challenging year when it comes to retention.