Violence prevention program in west Charlotte creates positive results

CHARLOTTE — For about a year, violence interrupters have had their boots on the ground in west Charlotte trying to curb crime.

Along the Beatties Ford Road corridor, homicides from gun violence are down. But that’s more comforting to some families than it is to others.

Flowers rest near the base of a plaque that is posted along the road. It bears the names of those whose families can’t rest yet.

“I don’t want this to be one of those situations that fades away,” Mario Black, a local activist, told Channel 9′s Hunter Sáenz.

Black has been helping families through the still unsolved killings of the “Beatties Ford Four,” the four victims who were killed during a block party June 2020 along the corridor. It’s an area that’s had its history with violent crime.

“When I was in school, walking from here to Bojangles was a war zone,” Charlotte City Councilman Malcolm Graham told Sáenz.

Graham, who represents the neighborhood, is pleased with the progress that’s been made so far.

“It’s come a long way,” he said.

The Alternatives to Violence program started in the Beatties Ford corridor a year ago. It provides boots-on-the-ground work to prevent violent crimes by using trained residents who are from the community.

“They’ve been in trouble before. They understand the tug and pull of growing up as a youth and sometimes, the trouble they can find themselves in,” Graham said.

A year in, the City of Charlotte says gun-related homicide rates are down in the Beatties Ford corridor, but other crimes remain the same.

The program has worked with more than 880 people. They’ve referred 180 of them to behavioral health programs and have successfully prevented violence with 26 mediations.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” Graham said.

The city said the program has also helped prevent retaliatory attacks since the June 2020 shooting, giving hope to those who were there -- that no one else has to go through the pain these four families now bear.

“It gives us a sense of hope and direction -- mainly in the right direction, in the community, for our city,” Mario Black said.

Councilman Graham and others recognize that it’s only been one year, and they want to see if this progress continues. Regardless, the program will expand to two new corridors -- the West Boulevard and Remount Road corridor, and near Nations Ford and East Arrowood roads.

(WATCH BELOW: 110 lives lost to violence in 2022, CMPD says; here’s what police are doing about it)

Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.