Police Chief Rodney Monroe told about 80 residents of Charlotte's University City Division that they can help reduce crime by becoming active in their communities.
In a meeting Tuesday, he said an effective police department calls for relationships that are strong on both sides: Officers must be visible and residents must be willing to act when they see suspicious activity.
“You guys are the eyes and ears,” Monroe told the group assembled at Vance High School. “Pay attention to what's going on in your community. That can make a difference.”
Monroe plans to visit each of the department's divisions as he acclimates to the job, which he started in June. His appearance at Vance was the second community meeting, and he plans 11 others.
The meeting started about 10 minutes late – Monroe said he was delayed because he had come from the scene of a murder investigation.
Fourteen-year-old Ashante Mayfield had just been shot to death inside a car in northwest Charlotte. The suspect is 19 years old. Monroe said an argument probably led to the shooting.
“It doesn't get much more senseless than that,” he told the group.
During the informal session, he described his plan for making the department more accountable, with commanders who will be responsible for a geographic area.
He also talked about shifting the department's focus from fast response times to crime prevention and reduced incidents. Assessments of the department's progress will take place every 28 days, he said.
After the brief presentation, he asked residents to come forward to ask questions and state their concerns.
The residents responded with several general concerns about break-ins, poor lighting in some neighborhoods and absentee landlords. There were also more urgent pleas.
One of the earliest questions was perhaps prompted by word of the 14-year-old's death.
“How are our children getting these guns,” Rockwell Park resident Thereasea Elder asked.
“Out of our homes,” Monroe said.
A minor who is carrying a gun usually tells someone else about it, Monroe said. The person who learns about the gun has a responsibility to act.
In a question that addressed concern about profiling by race and age, Jerome Lowery asked what could be done “to end harassment of me and my peers” in Hidden Valley.
“I don't step in to harass anyone,” Monroe said. “I step in to bring order to a situation.”
He said excessively loud music and profane language in public are reasons the police might engage someone.
“Some things happen because of ourselves,” Monroe said. “We have to know what's good and what's bad.”