How does one draw attention to the alarming crime surge in Charlotte given a daily barrage of Covid-19 and political news? Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden made a valid attempt on August 2 with a symbolic procession of hearses through Charlotte. Unfortunately, hearses are an appropriate symbol for Charlotte where the murder and violent crime rate continues to climb. McFadden’s display is also a reminder that police are a strong ally and not the culprit when it comes to urban violence.
In fact, a recent Gallup poll in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death seems to suggest that black communities themselves have little interest in decreasing police in their neighborhoods. The poll revealed 61 percent wanted the same amount of police presence and 20 percent called for more, while only 19 percent wanted less police.
In Wilson, North Carolina, 5-year-old Cannon Hinnant was executed while riding his bike with his sisters on August 9. Many in the state and nation expressed frustration on social media because of the lack of attention the story received by news outlets, presumably because the child victim was white, and the murderer is black. Much of the non-local reporting on the story came from news outlets and newspapers in the U.K., where even many North Carolinians heard about the story for the first time.
Urban areas are plagued by violence in North Carolina and across the nation. As John Hood pointed out in the Carolina Journal, “In Winston-Salem, homicides are up 17% over 2019. In Durham, homicides have tripled.” Shootings in New York City are up 130 percent and in July, Chicago had its most violent month in 28 years.
Many of the statistics point to a potential return to the peak high crime era of the early 1990s, which caused then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton to call for more cops on the street while states enacted tougher but effective sentencing laws. Unsurprisingly, prioritizing getting violent felons off the street saw a dramatic reduction in crime.
In 2019, Charlotte Defense Attorney Bill Powers warned crime spikes should be expected due to lax enforcement of the rule of law by police and the city’s judicial system. In part, Powers cited police issuing summons instead of arresting violent criminals and judges releasing violent suspects from jail with little or no bond. “That’s frustrating, especially given taxpayers pay CMPD approximately $262,000,000 (yes, 262 million) dollars a year to enforce the NC criminal laws,” wrote Powers in 2019. Buttressing his point, one of the basic purposes of government is to protect life and property.
Progressive policies and a leftward drift of many urban governments are posing a threat to safety and the rule of law. “The nation’s violent-crime rate blasted from 161 crimes per 100,000 people in 1960 to 364 a decade later, reaching a terrifying summit of 758 in 1991. Overwhelmed police departments, some of which had seen their budgets cut in favor of social programs, struggled to cope,” notes Steven Malanga in a 2019 City Journal article.
Powers and Malanga both cite the “broken windows” theory as being an essential tool for reducing crime. Enforcing property destruction laws, such as the broken window, or other more menial crimes will inevitably lead to lower rates of violent crime overall. The thinking is that a strong commitment to the rule of law and a more harmonious society has a positive impact on all potential criminal disorder. This was a main tactic of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s office as the city police and government oversaw New York City’s dramatic drop in crime during the 1990s. It’s also an important reminder of the dangers of government allowing looting of property or other criminal social unrest which so often exacerbates more violent crime.
During Sheriff McFadden’s mock funeral procession, he asked, “Is Charlotte a violent city?” He simply noted that he has at least 70 individuals who can witness in the affirmative – meaning bodies. At the time of the sheriff’s comments, 71 have died of murder in Charlotte to be exact, up from 63 at the same point last year.
Rev. James Barnett, founder of the Stop the Killing Crusade, summed up an essential point to the Charlotte Observer:
“If we don’t do something, this year is going to be worse than last year,” he said. “Crime is running rampant in this community now. And nobody’s saying stop.”
So far this year, about three quarters of the city’s homicide victims were Black. Barnett said that while many in the Black community are outraged when police kill African Americans, they tend to be less so when Black people kill each other.
“It’s like Black lives don’t matter unless they’re killed by the police,” said Barnett, who is Black.
While police departments can be reformed to effectively represent and engage their communities, reforms should avoid keeping violent offenders on the street or the promotion of lax sentencing laws. Those types of reforms have already been tried in progressive cities, resulting in the peak high crime era of the early 1990s. McFadden’s point perhaps highlights another one: The only good that can come from those type of lax policies are more jobs for the manufacturing of hearses and a surge in business for funeral homes.