The new year brings welcome news that the number of murders in Charlotte fell to 42 last year. That’s the lowest annual number since 1977, when police started keeping track of uniform crime statistics.
The news is also good – but less so – on the city’s west side. The police department’s Metro Division, which covers the Beatties Ford Road and Freedom Drive corridors, saw a 10 percent drop in violent crime, but also 11 murders.
That was nearly twice as many as any other division, and the same number Metro saw in 2013.
Critics of the recent wave of demonstrations nationally over police shootings of unarmed black men will ask why the west side isn’t launching protests over those 11 murders.
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But a private citizen who kills someone unlawfully is acting in self-interest. A police officer carries his gun on behalf of us all. It isn’t unreasonable for citizens to expect input on how he uses it.
Still, that debate is surely cold comfort to the families of the 11 murder victims – all of whom were black, all but two of whom were male.
Chief Rodney Monroe and his staff seem to be pushing the right buttons by focusing gang and drug units on the area, and by zeroing in on hardened criminals.
But ultimately, the cure has nothing to do with policing.
Last year, an Observer study of Census data showed the Beatties Ford and Freedom Road corridors with poverty rates above 20 percent, some of the highest in the city.
The fix is about jobs. Jobs that pay enough to support a family, buy a house and car, go on vacation once in a while, and retire comfortably.
When you have those things, you have something to lose. So does a drug dealer, but he knows there’s no comfortable retirement in his future. He acts accordingly. What makes him go away? Young men in the community with careers, wives, mortgages and no tolerance for his kind.
That’s what Herbert Weathers, former leader of the Enderly Park neighborhood association, would surely love to see. He quit the group in 2011, frustrated that he didn’t get enough help.
“I’m 81 years old,” he told the Observer’s Cleve Wootson Jr. “I can hardly walk now. Most people that live in the neighborhood, they don’t work together with you. They don’t come to meetings.”
Protests won’t lower the murder rate in Metro Division. But more help for the Herbert Weatherses of the west side?
That’s a start.