Apr 29, 2024 - News

What Charlotte's homicide rate says about the city

Charlotte NC skyline

Photo: Andy Weber/Axios

Charlotte is one of the few major U.S. cities where homicides are rising this year, not falling.

Why it matters: The prevalence of gun violence, especially among teens, could be a symptom of Charlotte's persistent upward mobility challenges.

An oft-cited 2014 Harvard study ranked Charlotte dead last out of 50 major cities in upward mobility. Though the economist behind the research has hinted that updated findings are encouraging, it's unclear how.

  • "We're dealing with a bigger problem than just gun violence," nonprofit leader Greg Jackson says.

By the numbers: Charlotte has seen a more than 40% jump in killings so far in 2024 as of April 20 compared with the same period last year, according to AH Datalytics, a criminal justice consulting firm.

  • The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department recently reported 34 homicides in the first three months of 2024, a 31% increase over the same timeframe in 2023. There were 26 murders in that span last year.
  • That total has since climbed to 40, per AH Datalytics.
Change in year-to-date reported homicides in selected major U.S. cities, 2023 to 2024
Data: AH Datalytics; Chart: Axios Visuals

Zoom out: Murders have declined by 20% on average across 219 cities compared to last year, AH Datalytics data show.

  • Greensboro homicides are down 35%, and Durham has cut its numbers by 50% this year.

What they're saying: CMPD says the latest uptick is a small sample size. Overall homicides are down since 2020 — a tragic year with 118 murders. The homicide rate reached its highest in 21 years.

  • Last year, CMPD reported 93 homicides, a 13% reduction from 2022.

Zoom in: So far in 2024, there were at least 21 shootings by juvenile suspects. Of those, 17 were shootings into either houses or cars, and there were 74 victims inside, per CMPD.

  • "They're having dinner, they're watching TV, they're hanging out with the family. Many of these had children playing in the house. Suddenly the walls erupt in gunfire," CMPD Major Bret Balamucki said.
  • "Shootings into Occupied Property" are up 42% compared to the first quarter of 2023. Sometimes the shooters are targeting an incorrect address, Balamucki said.

Between the lines: Jackson, who mentors youth and fights to stop violence through his nonprofit Heal Charlotte, says Charlotte isn't doing enough prevention.

  • Prevention could mean introducing kids to extracurriculars and positive influences before they are drawn to negative influences. Charlotte also must address the larger cycles of poverty, homelessness and gentrification, he says.
  • "A kid's never seen a BMW and now that's all he sees, and no one wants to give him anything," Jackson explains. "What do you think is gonna happen? Eventually, that kid is gonna make someone see them ... And that's what we're experiencing from a lot of these Black communities that are getting gentrified."
  • He says kids are going to school hungry and angry, which leads to fights and escalates to gun violence.

CMPD has several programs that intervene with juveniles after they've gotten into trouble, like Fifth Element, a mentorship program that puts repeat offenders through monthly life and career skills workshops.

  • The JADE team (Juvenile Accountability and Diversion Empowerment) also does home visits with families to find out what they need.
  • Charlotte also has violence interrupters, trained community members who are out trying to defuse conflicts.

The big picture: CMPD says there are too many factors to explain or predict homicides. They can range from the unemployment rate to how much the population uses social media.

  • "There's really not one that I can single in on, otherwise we wouldn't be working on it," CMPD Deputy Chief Zeru Chickoree said.

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