Public Safety

How is CMPD spending summer vacation? Flooding crime hotspots

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer M. Turner descends stairs with other CMPD officers after seeking information about a recent robbery during a summer crime reduction initiative in 2014. Police are launching a similar initiative this year.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer M. Turner descends stairs with other CMPD officers after seeking information about a recent robbery during a summer crime reduction initiative in 2014. Police are launching a similar initiative this year. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

It’s not exactly lightning bugs in a glass jar or the sound of the ice cream truck on a sweltering day, but there’s a sure sign that summer’s here: Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have announced a crackdown on violent crime.

Police will shift some officers in an attempt to get ahead of the crime they expect to increase during the warm summer months. Deputy Chief Jeff Estes made the announcement when he revealed that crime continued to go up in the first quarter of this year.

“We know summertime, people are out of school, it gets hot, people get nerves on end and those numbers can increase exponentially,” Estes said at the press conference, “That’s why we’re focusing on gun crime. We don’t want an aggravated assault to turn into a homicide.”

Crime is going up in Charlotte and in major cities across the United States, and experts say it typically gets worse during summer. Children and teens are out of school and have more idle time. Warmer temperatures mean people spend more time hanging out – and some of those interactions turn criminal.

That’s why summer crime initiatives are more common recently at large departments. Washington, D.C. has had one since 2010. New York had one last year.

CMPD launched a similar summer program in 2014, but the program went on hiatus last year, likely because the police department was contending with fallout from the trial of an officer criminally charged with killing an unarmed man.

Officers involved in the initiative won’t just flood city streets – CMPD told reporters they plan to focus on the most violent offenders and the most violent places in the city.

During such initiatives, officers increase the number of knock and talks – contacts with and possibly searches of people suspected of crimes. And officers scour police reports to look for connections between current crime and future ones. The targets in a drive-by shooting on a Friday night may go looking for revenge on Saturday night.

During the 10-week initiative in 2014, police saw 21 percent fewer gun crimes in 2014 than in 2013, according to police statistics. Estes told reporters the department successfully seized illegal guns and made 700 arrests. In one large swath of southeast Charlotte, violent crime dropped 15 percent.

The stakes are higher this year. Police have been battling crime increases for more than a year. The most serious assaults were up 35.9 percent, although the city has experienced a drop in homicides.

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