The much ballyhooed redeployment of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police took place Saturday, putting more focus – and more feet – back on the street.
The move, announced in early August, is the first major shakeup of Chief Rodney Monroe's tenure as top cop.
As of Saturday, 88 officers from specialized units, such as the highway interdiction and traffic safety unit, and the street crimes unit, were sent to patrol divisions.
Under former chief Darrel Stephens, who retired in June, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department relied more on centralized specialty units to attack hot-button crime problems.
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The new approach focuses more on shoe-leather police work and rapid response to changing trends.
“It did not take us long to recognize that we were struggling in the area of patrol,” Monroe said Friday. “That is where our resources needed to go.”
Earlier this month, Monroe released numbers that showed crime dropping significantly in July and August. It marked a new direction for an area that has experienced rising crime since February.
In those two months, Monroe said, crime dropped in 11 of the city's 13 patrol divisions, and crime over July and August was 16 percent lower than in the same months last year. Monroe became the Charlotte-Mecklenburg chief June 16.
Criminologists warned against drawing conclusions from such a limited amount of data. They said analysts usually need at least six months to determine why crime drops or rises, and even then pinpointing the reasons is tricky.
But Monroe still considered the numbers proof of success and said he expected the latest move to continue the trend. The new approach is similar to one Monroe employed while police chief in Richmond, Va.
Instead of centralized control, Monroe has installed new commanders in each of the Charlotte's 39 response areas.
The new commanders are responsible for their territory around the clock and must account for crime numbers every month. Deputy Chief Ken Miller said this provides a clear line of responsibility.
“And that is how you start to truly reduce crime,” he said.
Ken Schul spent the past six years working as the department's crime scene manager. Now as a new response area commander – in charge of an area that includes Hidden Valley and Sugar Creek – Schul is an important link in the line of communication that runs from the streets to the chief.
“Things change quickly on the streets,” Schul said. “Our job will be to monitor changing trends and attack crime where it's happening.”