CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With three homicides over the weekend, Charlotte’s rising level of violence is showing no signs of letting up.
The county has already declared it a public health crisis, but many question what happened to the plan to address it and get it under control.
Coming off a deadly year in 2019, the county health director declared the violence a “public health problem” in January. In February, a Safe Communities Committee approved the framework to implement what’s known as a “Violence Interrupter Program.”
Among other things, it relies on trained officers and community groups who defuse situations that could turn violent.
The city identified four areas they would focus on to reduce violent crime:
- West Sugar Creek at I-85
- Nations Ford and Arrowood
- Central Avenue and Sharon Amity
- Beatties Ford Road and LaSalle
The program has 3 goals:
- Interrupting the violence by training credible and respected people in these neighborhoods to be able to step in and prevent conflict
- Preventing future violence by linking the highest risk people to resources
- Changing norms
The city said the program is a top priority, but there is some criticism that city leaders aren’t acting fast enough or providing enough money to make it happen.
The violence along Beatties Ford Road and LaSalle Street came to a head after a mass shooting left four people dead and several others hurt during a block party over the summer.
The program would offer mentorship, conflict mediation and conflict management to people who may be at risk of getting involved with crime.
The second part is aimed to provide victims of gun violence with counseling and support while they’re recovering in the hospital.
Leaders said similar efforts have shown success in other parts of the country.
“What we focus on is changing their mindset, change their behavior, and showing them other ways. You got to change their thinking though. We got to make sure their days are matching with their nights. Jobs do not fix everything. What fixes everything is people’s mindset,” Chicago Violence Interrupter Ricardo “Cobe” Williams said.
In July, the city manager said we could see the program up and running by the fall.
The city will work with the national group Cure Violence to develop the violence interruption plan. As mentioned above, the three goals are to interrupt transmission, prevent violence and change the norms.
The organization would train and hire violence interrupters who are trusted community members. They would also send out outreach workers along the Beatties Ford and LaSalle area to get people behind not using violence to settle arguments.
This has been a priority for the city and plans are starting to come together.
“I am likening it to a disease that doesn’t have a vaccine and that can be contracted multiple times,” Victoria Watlington from District 3 said. “There is no herd immunity.”
“It can be complicated in the beginning, but once we see individuals in groups start to see there can be something different going on, and start to buy into the process, which can take some time, a new norm kind of emerges,” Brent Decker from Cure Violence said.
While the city identified other areas as violent crime hot spots, Beatties Ford and LaSalle will be the initial focus. Final recommendations for the program are expected next month.
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