Police changes take effect this week

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are about to become more visible.

More officers will be patrolling the streets across Charlotte and Mecklenburg County by the end of the week.

Police Chief Rodney Monroe's sweeping department reorganization, which includes sending 89 officers from specialty units back to patrol divisions, is set to take effect Saturday.

The department has more than 1,000 patrol officers.

Monroe's reorganization plan is designed to make crime reduction the department's No. 1 priority. The chief wants front-line officers and supervisors to identify and attack the biggest crime problems in each of the department's response areas. Police might focus on violent crimes in some neighborhoods. In others, they might focus on burglaries and thefts from vehicles.

“The object is to get more officers on the streets to deal with crime problems,” Maj. Chuck Johnson said Monday. “We want more officers focusing on high-crime areas and areas identified as having specific crime issues. Officers will use tactics that include problem-solving, crime prevention, focused enforcement on known suspects and various other tactics intended on identifying, apprehending and discouraging offenders. The objective is to reduce crime, particularly violent crime.”

Monroe is installing commanders in each of the city's 39 response areas. Those areas are now supervised by 13 captains. The new commanders will be responsible for their territories around the clock and every month will have to account to their captains and the chief for their area's crime numbers.

Officers in each of the response areas will analyze crime trends to help set priorities. The new commanders will report monthly on their strategies to combat crime.

In all, 89 officers from specialized units will be sent to patrol divisions. More than a third will come from the department's street crimes unit. Some of the redeployed officers will continue their specialized work within their new areas. Others will go on patrol.

Monroe used similar tactics in Richmond, where community leaders credited his focus on neighborhood-specific crime fighting with a sharp decline in crime.

The chief's reorganization comes at a time when many residents, alarmed at a spike in crime, are demanding solutions. Through June, violent crime was up 8.1 percent and property crime up 7.4 percent compared with the same six-month period last year.

Among other highlights of the chief's reorganization plan:

The department's gang unit will be nearly doubled to more than a dozen officers.

Vice and narcotics will get enough manpower to handle both neighborhood-level drug investigations and the more complex investigations targeting suppliers bringing drugs into the community.

A new youth crime unit will focus on children who have been victims of sexual assault or violence in the home. The domestic violence unit will focus on households with repeated incidences of violence.

Officers in the street crimes unit, who worked between divisions to combat robberies and assaults, will return to patrol. Each patrol division will have a “focused mission team” to deal with crime hot spots or areas where emerging crime trends are identified.