Jan 11, 2024 - News

Charlotte teens were involved in more than 100 shootings in 2023

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer is seen inside a patrol car ahead of Hurricane Florence in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. Hurricane Florences wrath hit the North Carolina coast, but the full effects of the storm, still centered 100 miles from shore, are yet to come. Photographer: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

An 8-year-old Charlotte girl was sleeping on her couch this past May when several suspects exited a car and fired into her home. A bullet struck her in the head.

  • While Olivia Velez survived, her injuries were life-altering.
  • The case is still ongoing. But detectives believe Velez was the collateral damage of Charlotte’s youth gun violence crisis. They suspect a group of teens was targeting the house because of a dispute.

The big picture: Juvenile crime is getting worse in Charlotte, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officials said Thursday during its end-of-year safety report.

  • The greater community is feeling the ripple effect of teen violence. On New Year’s Eve, a family-friendly fireworks show in Uptown turned chaotic after a 19-year-old allegedly shot and injured five people. Eleven minors were arrested for their involvement.
  • “Until something changes, we’re going to continue to see our Charlotte citizens preyed upon by a group of juveniles who don’t fear repercussions,” said CMPD major Ryan Butler.

By the numbers: In 2023, juvenile suspects were involved in 108 shootings — a 33% uptick from the previous year, according to CMPD’s report. Shootings with a juvenile victim rose by 18%.

  • 414 juveniles were suspects of violent crimes last year, per CMPD’s count.
  • More than 1,600 juveniles are accused of property crimes, up 86%.

Zoom out: During her remarks in Charlotte Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris said one in five Americans has a family member who was killed because of gun violence, WBTV reported.

What they’re saying: Officers say they’re “playing catch and release” with the same teens because of “Raise the Age.” The 2019 law made it so that 16- and 17-year-olds are not automatically charged as adults. CMPD says it is difficult to obtain secure custody orders from the Department of Juvenile Justice.

  • Instead of taking suspects to a juvenile detention facility, they’re usually released to their parent or guardian, Butler said.
  • In 2023, three young offenders were responsible for more than 120 offenses combined, CMPD says.

Chief Johnny Jennings blamed social media as well.

  • Young people are continuing to steal Kias and Hyundais, influenced by a viral TikTok challenge. Juveniles made up more than two-thirds of 1,200 auto theft arrests in 2023.
  • “You also see … just how common it is to make videos with guns and cash and drugs,” the chief said. “It almost becomes accepted within our society.”
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