The police department recently released the 2005 year end crime statistics to the news media. Stories appeared that day and the next that focused almost exclusively on the increases in homicide and robberies. These are serious crimes that affect the community and certainly should be the subject of news media focus and public concern. The complexity of crime combined with available time and space seem to preclude a more in-depth examination of these two crimes and the six others that make up the FBI Uniform Crime Report Index. I want to try to provide more insight into crime in Charlotte-Mecklenburg by adding a perspective that has not been included in stories about crime in 2005.
It is important for the community to know that the overall crime rate declined by 2% in 2005 over 2004.
violent crime rate (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault) increased by 6.4%
Property crime (burglary, larceny, auto theft, arson) declined by 3.3%.
The crime rate is the number of crimes per 100,000 population. It is used to account for population changes and as a simplistic benchmark with other cities. With Charlotte-Mecklenburg's enormous population growth, the rate provides a better perspective on crime.
We are very concerned about the increase in the violent crime rate in 2005 and have taken steps we hope will turn it around. The increase is driven primarily by the dramatic upswing in armed robbery which also adds to fear in the community. Public concern about violence is critical - the most effective ways of reducing it requires community involvement. Better understanding of violent crime in Charlotte-Mecklenburg may also help in dealing with fear. Consider:
- In 2004 the rate was 8.6 - the lowest in 30 years
- In 2005 the rate jumped to 11.9 - the first increase since 1999 when the rate was 13.7, still well below the peak of 28.7 in 1991
- It is a complex crime-
- In most cases, the victim and suspect are family members, intimately involved or at least know each other
- Many victims are engaged in high-risk lifestyles in which violence is all too common
- The solutions to reducing homicide and other violent encounters are wide ranging but addressing drug/alcohol abuse and improving conflict resolution skills would help considerably
- The robbery rate increased from 400.6 in 2004 to 511.5 in 2005.
- The highest rate was in 1989 at 1244.7 and the lowest was 217.5 in 1980.
- 2005 is the highest rate we have experienced since 1995
- The department made 12% more arrests for robbery in 2005 but that did not have the needed impact
- Two additional programs - Street Crimes Task Force and Billboards featuring wanted suspects - have been launched as well as stepped up efforts to educate citizens and business owners about crime prevention techniques.
The CMPD's mission is to develop problem solving partnerships to prevent crime and improve the quality of life. We have learned over the years from both research and experience that the most effective long term solutions to crime and other policing problems must involve the community.