Charlotte homicide rate hits 14-year high

2019's numbers are an 88% increase over the previous year

Charlotte Mecklenburg - Kerr Putney
Police Chief Kerr Putney addresses reporters at his weekly briefing on Wednesday, March 29, 2017, in Charlotte, N.C. Putney told reporters that officers are looking for ways to stem the spate of violence which has led to more than 20 homicides in the city so far in 2017. (AP Photo/Skip Foreman)

CHARLOTTE — New data shows North Carolina’s largest city suffered its highest rate of homicides last year in more than a decade.

Charlotte’s 2019 rate of 11.6 homicides per 100,000 people surpassed each year’s since 2005, according to crime data detailed by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department during a news conference on Tuesday.

It’s more than double the rate from just six years ago, when the city recorded its lowest homicide rate in recent history.

2019’s numbers are an 88% increase over the previous year, with 107 homicides recorded as opposed to the 57 documented in 2018.

The police department has pointed to an increase in conflicts over minor things such as fast food or small amounts of cash that have escalated to homicide. Police Chief Kerr Putney also said the department often arrests people for murder who have criminal histories and charges that have been dropped.

Putney said the criminal justice system “is failing our public in the area of accountability,” the Charlotte Observer reported.

As the rate climbed in 2019, the chief criticized judges for granting bail to people with murder charges, denounced the number of criminal charges dismissed by county prosecutors, and called for greater investment in community groups, especially those that mentor young black men, the newspaper said.

Putney announced last October that he planned to retire Jan. 1, 2020 but return to duty for the Republican National Convention and then step down again. That plan ran afoul of state retirement rules according to State treasurer Dale Folwell. Putney changed course and announced in December he would not step down until sometime after the convention in August.

At a January meeting, the Charlotte City Council said the surge in homicides is a public health crisis and called for investment in community-based resources and youth programs.

“It can’t just be about policing anymore,” Mayor Vi Lyles said. “We want to actually figure out how to make change sustainable.”

North State Journal Staff contributed to this article.