Mecklenburg County District Attorney Peter Gilchrist said Monday it would be difficult for a new “crime czar” to track how well county dollars are spent in the court system.
The idea of a special coordinator to oversee Charlotte-Mecklenburg's criminal justice system has been met with resistance.
Mayor Pat McCrory released a statement Monday that said the position “could actually cause confusion among the public as to who is responsible for criminal justice issues.” He also questioned using taxpayer dollars, and said leaders in the system should meet and discuss the issue, saying: “I would be glad to call such a meeting.”
Matthews Mayor Lee Myers also said Monday he doesn't support the idea, which was the main proposal from a citizen's crime task force formed by Mecklenburg County commissioners earlier this year to look for ways to fix problems in the local justice system.
The task force's work came as concerns over crime in Charlotte heightened. The latest CMPD statistics show violent crime down slightly for the first three quarters this year compared to the same period last year. But homicide was up 17 percent and residential burglaries up 10 percent compared to last year.
Mecklenburg County commissioners agreed to create the new county staff position, which was among 16 recommendations from the citizens' panel presented to the commissioners earlier this month.
It was the only recommendation from the task force that commissioners voted to act on immediately. The search for a crime czar began this month. It could pay as much as $141,017 a year, according to the job listing.
The position would attach accountability and performance standards to money spent to fight, prevent or prosecute crime, said County Manager Harry Jones. The position would have limited authority and wouldn't be able to hire or fire anyone in the justice system.
Even so, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe said last week that the position was unnecessary, and former Mecklenburg County Sheriff Jim Pendergraph, considered an early favorite for the job, said it lacked necessary teeth: “… You can't hold people accountable that you have no control over,” he said.
Jones said Monday that commissioners want to “create some accountability” about spending on courts, police, sheriff and other law enforcement programs.
“The point is that we've been giving money to the court system, or the police department,” Jones said, “and I don't think we would be having this discussion if we were satisfied.”
But Gilchrist said that each time he asks county commissioners for extra money for special court programs, he's asked for data to back up his need or for assurances he can show results.
He said he provides “guesstimates.” The state-funded computer system is so antiquated it can't provide meaningful data for analysis, he said.
Also, it's difficult to attach performance standards to criminal justice, he said.
“We're not making widgets here. It's not like a factory,” Gilchrist said.
Harry Nurkin, co-chairman of the task force, said the position was envisioned as a way to solve problems and improve communication within the county's criminal justice system. He said anyone who would oppose a position designed to coordinate crime-fighting efforts “must have something to hide.”