Public safety task force to deliver advice

One day last year, Shirley Fulton walked onto her front porch at her west Charlotte home and found her cherished – and expensive – rocking chair missing.

Fulton immediately dialed 311 and filed a property crime report with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

No one came to investigate. She's heard nothing since about her rocking chair.

So as co-chairwoman of a citizen panel making recommendations to reduce crime, the former Superior Court judge was all for including one that would require CMPD personnel to investigate all property crimes on-site.

“To make contact with victims … lets them know that someone is paying attention and at least investigating it,” Fulton said Sunday. “It doesn't necessarily have to be an officer. Those resources are scarce – but someone connected with the police department.”

Wednesday, that recommendation is one of 16 that will be delivered to county commissioners by the 14-member Justice and Public Safety Task Force. Commissioners appointed the panel in May after a public outcry to correct flaws in the criminal justice system and stem rising crime rates.

The panel began meeting July 23 and met for the last time last week to polish the recommendations.

Fulton said the list is led by an idea to create a permanent citizen advisory committee and county staff position to promote collaboration among local justice agencies and establish performance goals for each group. The panel also called on CMPD and the district attorney's office to align priorities so they could work more efficiently together.

Other ideas focus on reducing the number of chronic offenders, creating more specialty courts and raising employee salaries.

But Fulton and neighborhood advocates felt that on-site property crime investigations is an important idea to give the public a sense that each crime – no matter how small – is taken seriously.

Mary Bryan Smith, head of community watch in the Barclay Downs community near SouthPark mall, said the move would make residents feel more secure.

Because of its proximity to SouthPark, Smith's neighborhood has experienced its share of house and car break-ins, burglaries and car thefts.

A month ago, a neighbor reported that she was taking groceries into her house when someone grabbed her purse from her car.

“She called into police and they made a report, and nothing has ever come of it,” Smith said. “To send a police officer to the crime site would show neighbors that the police care and that we're all in this together. It's a feel-good thing and something our police force should be doing.”

Fulton said she was pleased with the task force's work. She's hopeful commissioners will adopt the recommendations.

“They show that lots of people are sitting down at the table and trying to make things happen to fix the criminal justice process,” she said. “ … I think these recommendations will make people appreciate more what the needs are.”