Violent crime is on the decline in Mecklenburg County, and police say efforts such as a recent crackdown on prostitution near Interstate 77 and Woodlawn Road are one reason.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department released statistics from the third quarter of 2014 on Wednesday, which show a drop in most violent crime categories – including homicides and robberies.
Overall, violent crime decreased 5.8 percent between January and September when compared with the same period last year. Property crime dropped 1.5 percent.
Police reported 29 homicides through Sept. 30 this year. During the same period last year, they investigated 40.
But the police department put the focus Wednesday on recent prostitution stings. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Capt. Gerald Smith said the department sees a lot of crimes, such as robberies and drug-related charges, stem from the practice. Smith is commander of the Westover Division, which includes the I-77/Woodlawn area that is home to some of the city’s most popular hotels.
He said police noticed an increase earlier this year in prostitution and discovered that much of it was being arranged online. Business deals were arranged on the Internet, and the clients met prostitutes at hotels in south Charlotte.
In several cases, men were assaulted and robbed after meeting the prostitute, Smith said.
He cited the example of a girl who he said was a runaway at age 15 and is now in jail a year later, charged with prostitution and robbery.
“She arranged to meet a man at a hotel, and when he declined to pay promptly, two men from an adjoining room ran in and began assaulting the client,” Smith said. “Meanwhile, the woman robbed the man.”
She was ultimately arrested in a police sting operation. A CMPD officer posed as a client online and met with prostitutes. Smith said several arrests were made, clearing a number of cases that involved robbery and other crimes.
Smith said the good reputation of the hotels along Woodlawn Road and I-77 in that area helped appeal to prostitutes and the people who ran the prostitution rings.
“These hotels have a clean, safe reputation,” Smith said. “They were riding off that good reputation.”
He described young women involved in the prostitution rings as “both victim and criminal. It’s a sad situation.”