Task force on crime focusing on solutions

A citizens' group charged with finding ways to improve Mecklenburg County's criminal justice system has reached its biggest task: deciding which changes to recommend to local leaders.

They'll present their plan later this fall to county commissioners, who have set aside $2 million to help fund their ideas.

Since late July, the group has met with roughly two dozen speakers and studied reams of crime statistics. Everyone they talked to pointed to flaws in what is roundly described as a broken system.

On Wednesday, task force members started the process of identifying solutions.

Common themes emerged quickly. Chief among them: a suggestion for a criminal justice executive who would hold local justice agencies accountable for their work. This official also would help ensure the crime heads are in regular communication with each other, task force members said.

“There has to be somebody that holds them accountable,” said Dr. John Vaughan, a local physician. “And then we, the public, hold (the executive) accountable.”

Other ideas included making the prosecution of chronic offenders a higher priority, as well as creating a scorecard or other system for evaluating judges. In addition, some members pushed for creating more speciality courts or alternative programs, and boosting employee pay.

Task force members will spend the next three weeks hashing through their ideas, and are expected to vote on a final slate of recommendations on Oct. 8.