Declaring that violent crime in Charlotte is a public health concern, the city has signed an agreement with Atrium Health to tackle the problem where it’s often most apparent: inside Atrium’s Level 1 trauma center at Carolinas Medical Center.
Under the arrangement, Atrium will deploy a violence-intervention specialist to work with crime victims who enter its emergency department.
The specialist will assess each victim’s needs, then work with those patients to arrange for social services that might include counseling, gang de-involvement, tattoo removal, help with education, job training or legal assistance.
Why it matters: Statistics show that victims of violence who are treated at hospitals often end up being victimized again at some point later on, or they too often may turn to violence themselves and victimize others, Dr. David Jacobs, FACS, Division of Acute Care Surgery at Atrium Health, said Wednesday during a press briefing, where he outlined Atrium’s collaboration with the city.
Jacobs said the odds that an Atrium patient who is a victim of violence will someday be victimized again are about 1 in 4, based on Atrium’s data.
The city’s collaboration with Atrium is designed to interrupt that pattern by connecting victims with a range of social services.
Not just a policing problem
Violent crime in Charlotte rose 16% last year. Spikes in homicides and domestic violence were especially notable.
The city ended 2020 with 121 illegal killings, one of the highest totals on record. About 79% of those homicide victims were Black, according to preliminary numbers released by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) as of Dec. 24, 2020.
The city’s collaboration with Atrium is an acknowledgment that violent crime in Charlotte is more than just a law-enforcement concern, officials said Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters at the same press briefing, Mayor Vi Lyles called violent crime a “community crisis.”
“There have been far too many instances of violence in our city,” she said, “and we are fully invested in finding a way to resolve this problem. We know that we have to do something. We have no other option.”
Jacobs said he anticipates that much of the work done by the intervention specialists will focus on males in their 20s and early 30s. CMPD figures show that men in those age groups make up a disproportionate number of homicide victims, as well as homicide suspects.
A first in N.C.
Atrium’s violence-intervention program will be patterned after similar efforts in other U.S. cities. Jacobs said about 40 such programs exist nationwide, but Charlotte will have the first in North Carolina, he said.
More than a year ago, city officials began to focus on violence as a public health issue, allocating money to address violent crime as a social equity issue.
City Manager Marcus Jones said the collaboration with Atrium will be funded under a broader $2 million effort approved by the City Council.
Atrium’s program initially will cost the city about $500,000, Jones said. The city will spend another $500,000 on efforts to reduce violence in areas designated by CMPD as high-crime corridors. A final $1 million will be spent on anti-crime programs headed by community groups.
Correction: This article was corrected to reflect David Jacobs’ current title in Atrium Health’s Division of Acute Care Surgery.