Rise in national homicide rate hits home in NC

Charlotte and Greensboro ask the public for help

FILE - In this April 18, 2020, file photo, funeral director Robert L. Albritten, foreground right, and funeral attendants Eddie Keith, background left, and Ronald Costello place a casket into a hearse. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

RALEIGH — Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden and Greensboro Police Chief Brian James each made public pleas to their respective cities this summer to put a halt to spiraling murder rates. Cities across North Carolina and the country have been seeing similar increases, with a Wall Street Journal report on Aug. 2 showing a 24% average increase in homicide in America’s 50 largest cities so far in 2020.

After a rash of homicides in Greensboro to start July, James held a press conference to address the issue.

“In the first seven days of July, we’ve had seven homicides in the city of Greensboro,” James began. “I stand before you today asking the community’s help in reducing and solving these senseless acts of violence.”

James said the 29 homicides that the city had seen so far dwarfed what his department was used to seeing.

“We’re in uncharted territories,” he said. “In my time in the police department over 24 years, we’ve never seen this many homicides at this point in the year. I remember a time when the 20s, more or less, would be our total for the entire year. So being that it’s early July and we’re at 29 — it’s a scary time.”

James, an African American, also noted that of the 29 victims, 26 were African American, two were Hispanic and one was white.

He then asked those attempting to resolve issues violently to instead “put the guns down,” adding, “You’re killing our future. You’re killing members of our community. And you’re destroying families.”

A CBS crime map, based on 2018 data, put Greensboro and neighboring High Point as the 39th and 25th most deadly cities in the country. And the numbers for Greensboro have only gotten worse since, with homicides rising from 38 in 2018 to 44 in 2019, and trending even higher in 2020.

A similar trend has been taking place in Charlotte, so earlier this month McFadden — along with the area’s funeral home directors — staged a procession of hearses through a particularly violent neighborhood off Beatties Ford Road.

“Is Charlotte a violent city? If you don’t have an answer to that question, there’s about 70 people who will have that answer for you,” McFadden said, referencing the 71 homicides the city had seen up to that point.

He gave some examples of who these victims were, including a grandmother who was killed at a party and a young man stabbed early one morning.

“We’re on a road that we should never be on, and this is a road of violence. Every single person in this city can help with this cause,” McFadden said. “If we want to fight about something, and we want to march about something, and we want to demonstrate about something, and we want to carry signs about something, let’s talk about community violence.”

His mention of marches and demonstrations referenced that much of the increase has occurred since May when protests critical of the police began across the country. The resulting calls to defund or abolish the police have caused further tension between police and black communities in many cities.

In 2019, Charlotte recorded 108 homicides, almost doubling from 57 in 2018. In 2020, the number is even higher, with 71 homicides compared to 62 at the same point in 2019.

Further west, Asheville Police Chief David Zak told North State Journal that as of Aug. 10, the small city had seen eight homicides in 2020. That already surpasses all of 2019, when there were six homicides, and is on pace to meet the record of 12 homicides in a year.