Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney wants to create a new division solely dedicated to transportation, with officers responsible for greenways, light rail and the airport.
The proposal, which is being discussed with City Manager Marcus Jones, would come as CMPD looks to hire 125 new officers over a two-year period by 2018. The department hired 63 officers last year, and Putney has asked for another 62 officers to be hired in the next fiscal year, which starts in July.
CMPD currently has about 2,000 officers.
Last week CMPD said it would increase patrols on greenways after a woman was attacked by a knife-wielding man who police said tried to sexually assault her. That happened about 6 p.m. at the entrance to McAlpine Greenway Park on Johnston Road, police said.
Under Putney’s plan, the new transportation division would be solely responsible for the McAlpine Greenway, as well as other greenways throughout the city. Charlotte and the county are expanding the greenway system with a cross-county trail that will span Mecklenburg County.
The new transit division is also being driven by the opening later this year or early next year of the Lynx Blue Line extension, a 9-mile light-rail extension to University City.
Police currently patrol the greenway and the light-rail line. The Charlotte Area Transit System also has private security guards who work at the main bus station and along the rail line.
Putney said having officers only responsible for greenways and public transportation would help them focus on just those areas.
“The team will be led by a captain,” Putney said. “They could meet and be briefed in a central location and then go out (to greenways and the rail line).”
The chief told City Council Monday that “right now our greenways aren’t patrolled like we want.”
CMPD today has 14 patrol divisions, including the airport. The transportation division would likely start with between 80 and 100 officers and grow over time. Many of those officers would come from the airport.
The possibility of officers assigned solely to greenways and the Lynx Blue Line comes as the city has seen a sharp increase in homicides in the first three months of the year.
There have been 25 homicides in 2017 compared with 12 at this point a year earlier. Putney tried to reassure council members that, in almost all of the homicides, the victim and killer knew each other.
Republican council member Ed Driggs asked Putney if he needs additional officers, above the 125 officers over a two-year period.
“I would not change course,” Putney said. “We need 125 and that hasn’t changed.”
Putney said he will soon consider possibly adding more officers for fiscal year 2019.