Colleagues recently said the South Division of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has better relationships with neighborhoods and lower crime rates thanks to Capt. Jim Wilson’s leadership over the last five years.
Wilson, who took over as captain of the South Division in May 2010, left the post in mid-January to assume the role of Commander of the Community Health and Wellness Division within CMPD.
“It’s good to change positions about every five years and bring someone fresh who has different views,” Wilson said. “It reinvigorates everything.”
Capt. Todd Lontz is the new head of the South Division.
The 57-square-mile division is home to 147,000 residents and extends south from Fairview Road, between Pineville and Matthews. There are 92 officers who patrol that area.
Wilson, 48, said one of his proudest accomplishments at the South Division was that it saw year-over-year reductions in crime for four of the five years he worked there.
Wilson credited the drops in crime to the hard work of his officers and the relationships they built with south Charlotte residents.
“We’re proud of the partnerships we made in this community, and that was reflected in the crime reduction,” said Wilson, who lives in University City with his wife and two teenage daughters. “By having those eyes and ears in the neighborhood… it made the South Division and the officer’s work really successful.”
He pointed to one initiative in the South Division that targeted heroin offenders who were resorting to property crime to fund their addictions.
“We were trying to get them treatment and break the cycle of addiction so we could break the cycle of crime,” said Wilson, noting that officers worked with the District Attorney’s office, rehabilitation centers, hospitals and others during the initiative.
He also described the South Charlotte Homeowners Against Residential Crime initiative in 2011, in which officers performed random audits of south Charlotte neighborhoods to see who was taking proper crime-prevention steps, such as removing valuables from their cars and locking their vehicles.
Out of the SCHARC program arose a similar program for teenagers at south Charlotte high schools. The “Lock it or Lose It” initiative promoted the prevention of larceny from cars. Local schools competed for the title of safest school; Providence High ultimately won that distinction.
The division also has held a National Night Out celebration at Calvary Church for the last two years, drawing scores of residents to meet local police officers and form partnerships. The event complements neighborhood National Night Out celebrations each summer.
“Those were just large, global examples of community-police partnerships,” said Wilson. “But we had it down to an individual level, too, with residents in the community.”
Lt. Travis Pardue with the South Division said he appreciated the approach Wilson took during his tenure.
“He encouraged a team approach in the management of South Division and encouraged his staff to look at problems holistically instead of just ‘the way we always did it,’” Pardue said.
Maj. Steve Willis, a former supervisor of Wilson’s who is now chief of staff, said Wilson has always had “that work ethic in him that he’s not going to fail.”
“Jim’s always been a hard worker, always been very conscientious, very employee-centric,” said Willis. “He’s concerned about his employees but he’s always very concerned about the level of service delivery he gives to the people he essentially works for, the citizens.”
Wilson said he is looking forward to his new position as Commander of the Community Health and Wellness Division, created to bring together several mental-health initiatives.
His purview includes the Crisis Intervention Team, where officers are trained to assist people in crisis. It also includes Child Development Community Policing, in which police work with clinicians to help children who are exposed to violence and trauma. And it includes the department’s Peer Support Program.
“It’s the kind of job that’s its own reward when you have a success,” Wilson said. “It’s really satisfying. You’re still fighting crime because you’re dealing with people out there who have a mental illness and who are winding up in jail, and you’re trying to divert them and get them the services they need.”
Meanwhile, Lontz said, he hopes to lead South Division in a similar way that Wilson did.
“I have to say that he is one great captain in a long list of great captains that have been previously assigned to the South Division,” said Lontz. “I plan to continue the trend of providing great service to the citizens of Charlotte Mecklenburg.”
Arriero: 704-358-5945; On Twitter: @earriero