More oversight of system
As members of the task force started brainstorming ideas on how to reduce crime, one common thought quickly emerged.
It wasn't enough, some said, to only come up with a host of goals for the crime agencies. What they also needed was someone to help make sure the ideas were put into action.
The group pitched the creation of a county staff position or function, along with a permanent citizens' advisory panel to promote collaboration among the crime agencies. The county employee also would set performance measures for the departments, and offer recommendations on how much the groups should receive in county funding
It's a bold proposal, chiefly because the leaders and agencies in the justice system all report to different constituencies: the state, the city and county and, in some cases, voters.
Still, Harry Nurkin, co-chairman of the citizen's group, said oversight is needed: “The silos are so obvious and there is (currently) no one person who can actually bring together all of these disparate parts sometimes and ask them, cajole them … to look at the same problem at the same time.”
Align prosecutor, police priorities
While police chiefs across the county and the district attorney dismiss the notion of a major feud between their offices, it is clear there are some schisms in the relationship.
The chiefs have vented frustration at the amount of evidence and paperwork they say must be filed with the DA before some arrests can be made. But prosecutors say their goal is to make sure cases are strong before they step inside a courtroom.
The task force wants both sides to come together and adopt a formal agreement of what their priorities will be when it comes to arresting and prosecuting suspects.
The police chiefs and district attorney have expressed willingness to look for ways to work better together, though it is unclear what form that might take.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe has proposed launching community prosecution, where an attorney from the DA's office would work alongside police to identify the biggest crime needs in an area, and tailor their policing and prosecution accordingly.
In the meantime, it was District Attorney Peter Gilchrist who suggested the task force recommend the formal agreements between his office and the seven chiefs. “If we work together as a hand and a glove,” Gilchrist told the group, “there's a tremendous amount we can probably accomplish.”
Tackle chronic offenders
Residents and police frequently lament that a relatively small number of people are responsible for the bulk of crime in the community.
For example, former Deputy Chief Jerry Sennett described this spring that Charlotte police had arrested eight burglary and auto theft suspects who together had accounted for more than 230 previous charges in the county.
A study from the Mecklenburg Sheriff's Department tracked 81 inmates who been arrested 783 times on more than 1,500 charges.
Some efforts are under way to target repeat offenders.
The task force suggests authorities increase their focus on so-called “part one” chronic offenders, those arrested for crimes such as homicides, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault and arson. They want a division established within the DA's office that would focus on speeding up the prosecution of those offenders.
Among their other ideas: creating a weekly report of chronic offenders that is distributed to all the justice agencies in the county; reduce the number of days it takes to dispose a case involving a repeat offender to no more than six months to one year.