The South Division of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department was honored Jan. 17 during a ceremony conducted by Police Chief Rodney Monroe.
During the ceremony, the division was recognized for having the highest rate of crime reduction in the department, lowering its overall crime rate by 16 percent in 2010.
The South Division, which covers roughly 57 miles within Fairview Road, Providence Road, Park Road and the Union County border, has 103 officers and is in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Capt. James Wilson, who has been with the division since May 2010, said the division felt honored by the recognition.
"It was a true sense of accomplishment," said Wilson, who's been with the CMPD since 1990. "But it was short-lived because the numbers came out after the new year. We were already focused on what we were going to do in 2011."
According to Wilson, 90 percent of the crimes in the South Division are property crimes. Larceny from auto and residential burglary are the top two property crimes. The larceny-from-auto crime rate was reduced by 30 percent, but residential burglary went up 15 percent. Wilson said lowering the crime rate for residential burglary is a priority in 2011.
One way the division will try to reduce home burglary is by making residents aware of what they can do to make their homes safer.
"Although the numbers were up, there are simple steps people can take to reduce their chances of becoming a victim of property crime," said Wilson.
Wilson said that when he was an area response commander for the CMPD Burglary Unit, he would ask criminals why they targeted certain homes and neighborhoods.
"They repeatedly told us they went for the easiest targets," said Wilson. "If a house was well-maintained and it looked like someone was home, they would move on. If a house was less kept-up and it looked like no one was home, they would break in."
Wilson said residents shouldn't let their newspapers pile up or their mail overflow, as that's a sign criminals look for in a potential home target. Wilson also suggested residents watch out for their neighbors' mail and newspapers to keep crime out of the neighborhood. If it looks like no one is home, he said, a break-in is more likely.
Wilson also said to keep larceny-from-auto crime rates down, residents should keep personal property in the house.
"You wouldn't leave $400 in cash sitting on your dashboard, would you?" asked Wilson. "But people will leave their $400 iPods and $200 GPS systems in plain view in the cars."
Wilson said larceny from auto is a crime of opportunity that drives property crimes up in the South Division. Although some of the arrested criminals who commit property crime are juveniles who live in the area, most are from other parts of the city.
"Along with the crime of opportunity, (criminals) are coming here because it's an easy area to get to," said Wilson. "With all the major thoroughfares that run through here, we are an easy target."
Wilson attributes the success of the lowered crime rates to his staff, who hold each other accountable for area crime trends. He said he meets every week with his three area response leaders to discuss trends in the last seven days and compare their findings to the same week of the previous year.
"This way we can identify crime trends and allocate resources in the neighborhoods and businesses we predict might be targeted," said Wilson. "We also meet with Chief Monroe every Monday and the deputy chiefs and majors every 28 days to discuss what crimes are happening and how we are responding."
He said the community has been very involved in keeping neighborhoods safe. Wilson said community leaders call the division regularly with tips and concerns, which helps officers determine what areas need patrolling.
"We've partnered really well with the community," said Wilson. "They just want to feel safe in their homes and know their property is safe.
"They know what's going on their neighborhoods and what's not and have been a vital part of crime prevention."