Why repeat offenders are returning to Charlotte streets
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A shocking investigation about Charlotte's crime cycle is affecting safety in every corner of the area.
NBC Charlotte Defender Alex Shabad revealed disturbing new information about repeat offenders, specifically on people charged with violent crimes, who are released from jail, only to be re-arrested.
One suspect was released from jail several times just this year. He was charged in multiple armed robberies.
“We have a revolving door,” said CharMeck Court Watch board member Cheryl Jones. “That is called the courtroom.”
High-profile arrest, low-profile release
Derek Adams, initially charged in 10 armed robberies, was back out in the streets the very same month.
“A repeat offender needs to be locked up,” said armed robbery victim Jerry Johnson.
Johnson is a clerk at one of the stores Adams was accused of targeting.
“At first, I thought he was joking,” Johnson said. “Until he brandished the gun.”
Adams, who is a convicted sex offender, wasn’t done after that.
Records obtained by The Defenders show he would be booked in jail two more times in 2017.
“If you could take my blood pressure right now, you’d probably see it’s out the top of my head,” Jones said.
Cheryl Jones is with CharMeck Court Watch, a group that tracks repeat offenders through the court system.
“They are bonding out and they’re out again,” Jones said. “And here we go again… It’s a vicious cycle we have.”
An issue that goes beyond law enforcement
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s deputy chief Coerte Voorhees said the issue goes beyond CMPD’s powers.
“That’s the issue with the courts,” Voorhees said.
And to his point, The Defenders are obtaining new crime numbers. During each of the past two years, more than 800 people were charged with violent crimes had been previously arrested for other criminal offenses, according to CMPD.
Voorhees says repeat offenders commit more than half of the violent crimes in Charlotte.
“It’s so frustrating for all of us to sit around and see this happen and know that these individuals are going to go out and victimize someone else,” Jones said.
“Is that acceptable for the justice system?” asked Shabad.
“We need to do better,” Voorhees responded.
Sex offenders on-campus
It’s not just Charlotte that has a local community on edge over an individual with a history of violent crimes being back out on the street. Parents in Cleveland County were outraged over the summer after finding out a convicted sex offender was given permission by the school district to attend a Burns High School graduation ceremony.
A North Carolina law prohibits registered sex offenders from being on school property but a loophole in the state law allowed that individual to attend the high school graduation.
According to Cleveland County School District’s policy, “A registered sex offender who is the parent or guardian of a student in the district may only be present in school buildings, in school facilities, on school campuses with prior written permission from the Superintendent or designee.”
Experts told NBC Charlotte the system is set up to keep sex offenders off-campus but not to monitor them while they’re on-campus.
"It becomes all the more difficult to really hone in on whether there's a convicted sex offender there or not,” said Mo Canady of National Association of School Resource Officers.
The justice system’s role
A criminal defense attorney told NBC Charlotte that courts do consider a person’s criminal history in determining their bond.
“Can’t say the justice system is dropping the ball,” said criminal defense attorney Matthew Pruden.
Pruden said evidence in the case plays a critical role in determining the person’s bond.
“If I can show the court that the evidence is not very strong, then that might give the person an opportunity to have a lower bond,” Pruden said.
Jones is hoping to see more speedy trials and longer prison sentences so the same familiar faces won’t keep popping up in arrest reports and back out on the streets.
“Once they are convicted,” she said. “Keep them behind bars.”
NBC Charlotte reached out to local judges to ask how they determine a person’s bond. However, a court spokeswoman told us they did not want to comment.
As for Adams, jail records show he was last arrested October 8 and he remains in jail.