Charlotte’s 2016 crime data paints ugly picture

Criminal activity in Charlotte last year was 17 percent above the City's five-year average, police officials said Tuesday.

Violent crime in Charlotte was up just over 10 percent last year, including more homicides and aggravated assaults, based on a report issued Tuesday by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

Criminal activity overall was 17 percent above the five-year average, when taking into account both violent and nonviolent offenses, police officials said.

Among the more startling jumps: a 16.7 percent increase in homicides with 68 killed, three of them children.

As a result, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney says his department intends to ask city leaders to allow hiring about 125 more officers. In about 15 of those cases, federal grant dollars could be used to pay the cost, officials said. (The department currently has just under 1,880 officers.)

Putney added that men and women hired by the department will be as “diverse as we can get,” including Hispanics and Asian-Americans.

Adding more diversity to the staff is one of many responses Putney is employing to handle critics who have accused the department of dealing unfairly with minorities. That criticism intensified after the September shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, a African-American man who was armed and refused to follow police commands. His death prompted days of protests in uptown and accusations the department was covering up wrongdoing by officers.

Putney addressed that shooting during a Tuesday press conference, admitting he was aware some critics had demanded he resign. However, Putney stopped far short of suggesting his officers were in the wrong during the fatal shootings.

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There were 600,000 police engagements in Charlotte last year, he said, and only 12 resulted in officers shooting a suspect, five of which were fatal.

“We’re not perfect. We make mistakes. … If you feel wronged, I want to know about it,” he said, adding a caveat: Resisting an officer’s commands during a roadside encounter is not the place or time.

“Please put your safety first. … Have your day in court.”

Putney’s presentation of 2016 crime data came just a week after the department saw one of its officers involved in another fatal shooting, this one involving a Hispanic man on Albemarle Road. The suspect, 28-year-old Josue Javier Diaz, was accused of firing at an undercover officer during the encounter.

The shooting heightened tensions between the department and some elements of the Hispanic community, which Putney says he’s addressing through ongoing meetings with Hispanic community leaders.

Among the crime statistics release Tuesday:

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68 homicides, compared to 60 the previous year, a 16.7 percent increase.
2,120 robberies, compared to 1,947 the prior year, an 8.9 percent increase.
279 rapes, compared to 282 the year before, a decrease of 1.1 percent.
4,148 aggravated assaults, compared to 3,723 the year before, an 11.4 percent increase.
2,764 vehicle thefts, compared to 2,208 the year before, a 25.2 percent increase.
228 arson cases, compared to 224 the year before, a 1.8 percent increase.
6,734 burglaries, compared to 6,832 the year before, a 4.5 percent decrease. (However, the category of commercial burglaries was up 6.9 percent.)

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