STEELE CREEK One officer specializes in undercover drug work.
Another detective has a vast knowledge of key offenders on probation in the Steele Creek area.
A third investigator is skilled in organizing lineups and helping victims identify their attackers.
All are part of a special team of 12 officers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Departments Steele Creek Division, where the number of robberies have steadily declined over the past five years.
Officials in the division, which covers a 60-square-mile area in southwest Charlotte, attribute the decrease to the work of the focus mission team, which targets robberies and other violent crimes.
In 2007, the year before CMPD implemented these specialized teams in each of its 13 divisions, Steele Creek saw 287 robberies. That number dropped every year, and in 2012 was cut by more than half.
Last year Steele Creek officers responded to only 136 robberies, an average of 2.2 a week.
There are several divisions that are doing well right now, Steele Creek Division Capt. Chris Dozier said. What stands out with us is how we approach robbery incidents.
Instead of a team of officers who all have the same general skills, each of the officers on Steele Creeks focus mission team has a special role like interrogating suspects or developing relationships with local business owners that plays a part in the larger investigation.
That way, the team members can take a kind of divide-and-conquer approach to their investigations, which they say helps them solve cases faster.
Historically, wed have three or four robberies in a night. We didnt have a lot of pressure on the suspects at the time, said Officer J.B. Helms, who arranges lineups for the team and has worked with the division for more than a decade. But when a lot of officers work together to target an area, people lay low.
When a robbery occurs, the team responds immediately to the aid of division patrol officers. Which team members work the case depends on the details of the crime, team supervisor Sgt. G. Brown said.
If police suspect the robbery is drug-related, for example, the undercover drug officer will be assigned to the investigation.
We have a pretty unique unit, Brown said. Everybody has their own niche.
Other recent initiatives at the division, like monthly checks to ensure high-profile offenders are following their probation guidelines and meetings with owners of restaurants and apartment complexes, have also helped keep robberies down, division Capt. Chris Dozier said.
Theres been a lot of growth this year a lot of apartment complexes, a lot of new houses, a lot of businesses along the South Tryon Street corridor, the captain said. The protection of the people who live here is our top priority.
Steele: 704-358-5067; Twitter: @steelecs
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less