A significant chunk of people in Mecklenburg County – 42 percent – feel they're less safe from crime this year than a year ago. That statistic should get Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe's attention, as well as the city manager's and City Council's.
The annual Charlotte Observer-News Channel 36 Carolinas Poll offered other disturbing results:
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Only 7 percent of respondents said they feel safer from crime this year than last.
About 37 percent of respondents said they or a household member have been a crime victim in the past five years.
Of those polled, 42 percent of white respondents said they thought the police would use force only when it's absolutely necessary. Only 13 percent of black respondents answered that way.
Some 69 percent of black respondents said they were highly confident that Chief Monroe, who's black and who's been on the job only two months, would do an excellent job. That compares to 38 percent of whites polled.
About 42 percent of white respondents said they're highly confident the police will keep them safe, compared with only 29 percent of blacks polled.
The poll can't assess the cause of that large gap between whites' and blacks' views of police use of force. Does it stem from expectations and outlook? Or does it result from different treatment at the hands of police? Chief Monroe, if he hopes to win public support, must learn more, and if what he learns shows that black citizens are disproportionately the victims of police force, he must address that disparity openly and vigorously.
Just as important for Chief Monroe and other city leaders is to address the growing belief that Charlotte is less safe.
Chief Monroe has reorganized the department to put more officers on patrol. That's a good start. But he can't do it alone.
The City Council must allocate enough money to hire enough officers. The N.C. legislature must provide the funds to hire enough prosecutors, which are paid from state money, not local. They must provide adequate court resources, as well.
Charlotte has prospered in large part because newcomers trusted that its quality of life would be high. A growing fear of crime will destroy that trust and with it, the city's prosperity. The community and the state must vigorously address this problem.