I’m probably the worst person to take along on your house-hunting adventures.I’ve covered crime in Charlotte for the past five years, and have sped out to all parts of the city to cover crimes, both horrifying and mundane. Often, if a friend has nearly settled on a dream home in a section of town, they’ll warily ask me: How well do you know that neighborhood?So I’ll tell you what I tell them. I’ve lived in Charlotte since I was a kid and I consider it pretty safe. Some numbers back me up: In each of the past three years, police have announced that crime overall has fallen. Part of that is due to a change in police tactics under Chief Rodney Monroe. But criminologists say Charlotte and the rest of the United States are benefiting from a nationwide crime drop that experts haven’t been able to fully explain. So crime is down here, but take that with a grain of salt, because it’s also down in lots of other places. In 2011, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said the number of crimes dropped 7.1 percent. The number of homicides officers investigated last year was at the lowest point since 1988.Police attribute that largely to their signature strategy of keeping a close eye on criminals before they strike. “Knowing who offenders are and paying close attention to them has paid off,” Monroe told the Observer earlier this year after announcing the crime drops. For example, officers routinely petition judges to allow the department to electronically monitor suspects who’ve been released from jail on bond while awaiting trial. The monitors – attached to a person’s ankle – use GPS to report a suspect’s whereabouts and notify police if the monitor is removed. Police also can see if a suspect is in an area where a crime was reported. CMPD has divvied up the city into 32 response areas and assigned a lieutenant to oversee crime in those sections. They hold weekly meetings to discuss crime trends and potential solutions. That means there’s probably someone out there with intimate knowledge of which crime problems affect your neighborhood.There are also a few electronic tools. On the department’s website, www.cmpd.org, under the “For your safety tag” is the department’s crime-mapping system. The software can be a bit clunky, but it should give you a good sense of what types of crimes happen in your area – and how frequently. That way, you won’t have to warily ask me.
Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012
Stats show area becoming safer
2011 statistics Homicides: 55 – down 6.8 percent Robberies: 1,612 – down 10.2 percent Rapes: 211 – down 8.7 percent Aggravated assaults: 2,901 – up 3.8 percent Residential burglaries: 6,352 – down 13 percent Vehicle thefts: 2,665 – down 21.2 percent Larcenies: 21,369 – down 5.9 percent Arson: 159 – down 19.8 percent