As Charlotte-Mecklenburg police prepare to ask City Council for more officers, Chief Kerr Putney on Wednesday released numbers showing a significant rise in crime over the past year.
Overall crime in Charlotte increased about 10 percent in 2015, including a nearly 50 percent spike in home invasions that Putney called “most troubling.”
Violent crime rose 18.2 percent and property crimes 8.6 percent, Putney said at a news conference at First Baptist Church-West on Oaklawn Avenue.
Homicides jumped 36.4 percent, from 44 in 2014 to 60 in 2015. In more than half of the cases, the victim knew the suspect, he said.
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Of the 156 home invasions, about half were over drugs, the chief said.
Putney said crime rose despite his officers working harder than ever. In the next couple of days, Putney will urge City Council members to hire more police. He has not said how many additional officers he will request.
“How many more is for them to determine,” the chief said of council members.
In the early 1990s, the department added 100 officers and saw “a significant reduction in crime,” Putney said.
“In 2008-09, we added 125 and over the next three years saw over a 30 percent reduction in the crime rate,” he said. “We’re not saying we’re the only variable. But the correlation can’t be disputed.”
Police this year also want to expand the use of body cameras, which are aimed at increasing public trust and officer accountability, Putney said. All patrol officers are outfitted with the cameras.
Putney said the figures released Wednesday might lead some people to think officers aren’t working as hard as they can.
“If you look at the numbers, people might think our officers haven’t been as active and as proactive as they should be,” the chief said. “What I can tell you is I vehemently dispute that. Our officers have been as proactive as ever. Actually more so.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get the impact on the overall crime rate that we would have liked, and that’s OK, because our officers have been working, and I stand behind the work,” Putney said.
Police, for instance, recovered more than 300 stolen vehicles, compared with only 90 in 2014, “so the work can’t be disputed,” the chief said.
Putney singled out several officers, including Officer Justin Price, who’s been with the department for only 2 1/2 years. In just four months, Price made 44 arrests, 190 traffic stops, seized nine firearms and made seven felony arrests, Putney said.
On July 9, Price stopped a stolen vehicle, caught a suspect as he ran from the vehicle, arrested the person and another suspect and seized two handguns, the chief said.
Police have also greatly increased their contact with residents, Putney said.
In 2012, police made 42,000 “citizen contacts,” where police left their cars and talked with both ordinary citizens and suspects, Putney said. That number jumped to 56,000 in 2013, to 77,000 in 2014, and to 81,602 in 2015, he said. “So the work is there,” he said.
Also, a program aimed at youth offenders has been a success, the chief said, with only 2 percent of those who completed the program going out and committing another crime.
Putney cited the accomplishments of the Gang Alternative Principles Program, which over seven years has provided anger management and life-skills and leadership training to almost 700 youth, program manager George Wilkerson said. The program is run by the nonprofit Charlotte Community Services Association and is based at First Baptist Church-West.
The chief, however, said residents can also help prevent crime.
Property stolen from homes is four times more likely to be recovered if you write down the serial numbers, he said. And 65 percent of vehicle thefts involved cars whose doors were left unlocked, according to the chief. Others were stolen after keys were left in the ignition.
CMPD’s 2015 crime statistics
Overall crime rate: Increased 9.9%
Homicides: Increased 36.4% from 44 to 60.
Robberies: Increased 22.7% from 1,589 to 1,949
Rapes: Increased 11.7% from 256 to 286
Burglaries: Increased 12% from 6,071 to 6,798
Vehicle Thefts: Increased 32% from 1,690 to 2,230
Home invasions: Increased 51% from 79 to 156