Crime & Courts

CMPD: Overall crime rate down in first quarter

Charlotte’s overall crime rate from January through the end of March is down 4.3 percent from the same time last year, police said Friday.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Deputy Chief Doug Gallant noted at a media briefing that most categories of criminal offenses during the first quarter had seen at least marginal decreases. Violent crimes were down about 12 percent and property crime decreased roughly three percent, he said.

But homicides and commercial burglaries were two crime categories that saw an increase.

Through the end of March, 10 homicides have been investigated. In that same period last year, there were nine homicides, police said.

Commercial burglary cases have also seen a slight increase this year, up nearly five percent at 319 from last year’s 304.

Gallant partially credits the department’s real-time crime center for quick response times. Technology such as the more than 650 cameras obtained for the Democratic National Convention that are on a wireless network across the city have helped provide critical speed, Gallant said.

And with prom season and more warm weather on the horizon, officials said, the work of the department’s DWI task force will play a key role during a time when impaired driving numbers typically spike.

Sgt. Jesse Wood leads the task force of six officers that charged 332 people with impaired driving during the first quarter. A grant from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program will provide the funding for these officers to focus solely on DWI enforcement for the next four years.

During the first quarter, the task force has organized or participated in five DWI checkpoints and has issued 2,100 citations for other traffic offenses such as speeding, reckless driving and seat belt violations, Wood said.

Linda Roberts, who spoke at Friday’s briefing, asked for community support of the task force efforts. Her son, Greg Byers, was 26 when he was killed by an impaired driver in December 1999. The driver was a repeat offender who was driving the wrong way on Interstate 77 and never should have been on the road, she said.

But the task force’s concentrated efforts are getting results, Woods said, noting there’s been a decrease in the number of first-quarter traffic fatalities involving impaired drivers.

There were three traffic fatalities involving impaired drivers in the first quarter of 2014, down from seven last year, he said.