The City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County introduced Charlotte native Belton L. Platt as site supervisor for its Alternatives to Violence [ATV] program.
Platt will oversee two “violence interrupters” and two outreach workers charged with mediating and reducing violent crime along the Beatties Ford Road corridor. Officials made the announcement during a press conference Tuesday at the Government Center uptown.
Trained through the Cure Violence model — which approaches crime from a public health perspective — the ATV team will work five days a week, canvassing the Beatties Ford Road/LaSalle Street area while building relationships with residents, from the elderly to block-level drug dealers.
In some instances the work will call for early mornings — between midnight and 3 a.m. — the hours when violent crime is more prone to take place.
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ATV workers will not take the place of first responders or police, government officials said. Rather, they will serve as mediators between feuding parties to interrupt or thwart potential violence.
Funded for one year, the city and county have allocated $500,000 towards the program.
George Dunlap, chair, Mecklenburg County Commissioners, applauded the appointment of Platt, adding the potential success of the program means more than any of the funding invested.
“Bringing an end to violence in west Charlotte will hopefully result in saving lives, and bringing an end to the violence will also help reduce the scars of trauma that are perpetuated on victims and their families as well as the community at large,” said Dunlap.
“If we are successful in our efforts both outcomes will make the investment priceless.”
Who is Belton Platt?
City officials described Platt as a motivational speaker, mentor, chaplain, author, restaurateur and community activist.
He’s currently the apostle and overseer of Rock Ministries International Charlotte. But decades ago, Platt served a different “congregation” on Charlotte’s streets.
He was considered a top cocaine dealer in the 1980s who went by the street name of “Money Rock.”
Growing up in the now demolished Piedmont Courts housing project, Platt suffered from a tumultuous childhood, which he explored with author Pam Kelley in the 2018 book “Money Rock: A Family’s Story of Cocaine, Race and Ambition in the New South.”
In the late 1980s, Platt’s illicit days on the street came to a halt when he was arrested on federal drug charges and eventually sentenced to 21 years in prison. He was released in 2010.
During that time, he lost three sons to gun violence: two to homicide and one to suicide.
His mother, Carrie Graves, also had a reputation on the streets of Charlotte — not for illegal activity, but as a longtime community activist.
At the press conference Tuesday, Mayor Vi Lyles remembered Platt’s mother as someone who advocated tirelessly for her community and to end gun violence.
“When I was a student at Queens College, Carrie was a leader in this effort where she tried to make sure that Dalton Village was a place that people could live,” Lyles said. “She registered voters, she talked to kids everyday and she was a fixture in this chamber that was at that time across the street. So I just want to recognize Ms. Graves. We’ve been at this a long time.”
Though unsuccessful, Graves was also one of the first Black women to run for city council in Charlotte in 1969.
Platt thanked his mother as well, acknowledging the serendipitous nature of the moment.
“Thank you mother for praying for me, for believing in me and for getting me here today,” he said.
For Platt who saw his father attempt to kill his mother at the tender age of five, he says he knows the trauma, pain and fear that boys just like him grow up with.
He wants the ATV program to be a visible resource for those in need of somewhere to turn, something he wishes he had as a youngster.
“I believe people can change. My team and I, we are men up here that have changed our lives for the better,” Platt said. “Each one of them know we are putting our lives at stake, but it’s worth it if we can stop one murder, one kid from going the wrong way.”
Why it matters
City officials and community groups have worked for years to contain crime along sections of Beatties Ford Road, especially in the commercial district where Beatties Ford intersects with LaSalle Street.
In January 2020, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department [CMPD] identified the area around that intersection as one of four “hot spots” for crime, listing drug activity and a homeless population as contributing factors.
City-wide, Charlotte has seen an increase in violent crimes and homicides over the past few years. In 2019, police reported 107 killings, up from 57 the previous year.
In 2020, that number rose to 122, according to CMPD data.
Last October, city officials announced SAFE Charlotte in response to the climbing homicide rate, to remedy what they called an epidemic of violence.
In line with SAFE Charlotte’s priorities, 17 community-based groups received $50,000 grants in April to help them address crime and violence.
City leaders have also reached out to those who have been victims of violent crime. In February, they announced a partnership with Atrium Health where victims who enter the Level 1 trauma center at Carolinas Medical Center will be interviewed by a “violence-intervention specialist.”
From there, the specialists will help victims arrange for social services, such as counseling, gang de-involvement, tattoo removal, help with education, job training or legal assistance.
Data collected by Atrium Health shows that victims of violence often are re-victimized or often become perpetrators of violence.
With every effort the city makes, breaking the cycle of violence is the goal, said District 2 Councilman Malcolm Graham, who represents the Beatties Ford Road corridor.
Graham said Belton is ideally suited for the role to lead the ATV program, because “he can save lives.”
“He’s been there. He understands the plight that many of our young folks are facing today,” said Graham.
The Beatties Ford community will get the opportunity to meet the ATV team as they officially kick-off their work at a celebration titled “QC Fest” on Aug. 14, noon to 6 p.m. at Northwest School of the Arts.
Sponsored by the city, county, Greenlight Fund and Wells Fargo, the festival will have food trucks, vendors, bounce houses, face-painting, animals and live performances by artists such as J. Holiday and Day 26.
“This is all to celebrate a new beginning for Beatties Ford Road and this community,” said Graham.
For more information visit charlottenc.gov/qcfest.
This article was published as part of our West End Journalism Project, which is funded by a grant by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.