To curb violent crime around Johnson C. Smith University and along Beatties Ford Road, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and JCSU campus police have partnered on a joint plan to keep students and the campus community safe. 

Campus Police Chief Jermaine Cherry said his department became increasingly concerned with rising crime in the area, including criminal activity near the Two-Way Stop convenience store on West Trade Street, loitering close to the university, breaking and entering of community members’ homes and assaults. After recent shootings close to campus, JCSU police assisted CMPD with identifying possible suspects. 

With three resident halls on the west side of campus, Cherry said students have to either drive or walk on streets where violent crime happens frequently. 

“That’s what brought a sense of urgency to this matter,” he said.

Jermaine Cherry, campus police chief at Johnson C. Smith University

Cherry met with officers from CMPD’s Metro Division and Mecklenburg County Sheriff Gary McFadden, with both agencies pledging resources to reduce violence and homelessness surrounding the school. In those meetings, CMPD officers and campus police developed a joint plan to provide a more safe and secure environment for JSCU students, faculty and staff. 

Plans include:

  • Increasing patrols in the area. CMPD will deploy its bike and specialized crime units when possible.
  • Incorporating CMPD’s Sky Tower and a Mobile Camera Unit for surveillance of trouble spots.
  • Exploring options for assembling a multi-agency task force.
  • Communicating with the owners and managers of the Two-Way Stop corner store to address loitering and other criminal activity.
  • Increasing information-sharing opportunities.

Resources supporting the homeless

Aside from CMPD and the sheriff’s office, Cherry has spoken to mental health officials at Atrium Health, homeless shelters and food banks to help address homelessness in the area. He said mental health advocates will meet with people experiencing homelessness followed by food bank representatives offering resources and further assistance. 

“We hope to pay attention and bring resources to the homelessness problem, not only around the city but within this area as well,” Cherry told QCity Metro.

Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather III offered resources, including assigning assistant district attorneys, to help execute the plan. With the LYNX Blue Line extending through Beatties Ford Road, Cherry met with transit system officers to discuss potential collaborations.

Community input

Cherry and his officers engaged the neighborhoods surrounding JCSU’s campus before implementing the plan. They went door to door to listen to neighbors’ concerns about criminal activity in the area and suggestions of how to reduce it. He recalled one neighbor recommending the university plant a community garden on a piece of grassy land on Campus Street. 

Campus police also involved clergy from First Baptist Church-West about creating opportunities for youth. Cherry said partnerships with local Boys & Girls Clubs are a future possibility.

“We look forward to playing a role in making sure the Greater Charlotte community, more specifically right around JCSU, is striving and healthy,” Cherry said. “We’re willing to do whatever is necessary to realize that.”

Jonathan is a former QCity Metro reporter who covered Charlotte neighborhoods north of uptown. He also reported on education, public safety and health.

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