CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Violent crime continued to fall in the United States, and in Mecklenburg, through 2011 – positive news that was tempered by a week in which Charlotte-Mecklenburg police investigated five killings.
In 2011, violent crime across the nation dropped 3.8 percent from 2010, according to statistics released last week by the FBI. In Mecklenburg during the same period, the drop was 2.1 percent. The FBI says violent crime across the nation has dropped 15.5 percent since 2002.
According to the FBI, police reported an estimated 386.3 violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants in 2011 across the United States. Aggravated assaults constituted the majority of violent crimes, some 62.4 percent. Robberies were 29.4 percent of all violent crimes in the U.S.
In Mecklenburg County through September, the latest period for which complete statistics were available, police say they’ve seen a 15.7 percent increase in robberies compared to the first nine months of 2011.
During the same period, police said, they’ve seen a 6 percent increase in rapes and a nearly 12 percent increase in aggravated assaults.
Criminologists advance a range of theories for decreasing violence: Improved policing techniques; more prisons; better rehabilitation; better emergency medicine; housing policies that lower the concentration of people in poor, crime-ridden areas; and an influx of immigrants who tend to keep a low profile.
But as the police department announced double-digit crime decreases since Rodney Monroe became chief in 2009, officers and community leaders have warned that drops wouldn’t continue forever. If nothing else, at some point, the department would begin competing against its own low numbers.
“Sometimes, the numbers will stay the same, but what we don’t want them to do is go way, way over where we were last year, because then we’ve lost ground,” said Judy Williams, one of the founders of Mothers of Murdered Offspring.
Crime on the rise
This year, the city has seen the first signs of a crime increase. In July, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police announced the city had entered its first period of sustained crime increases under Monroe.
At the time, homicides had increased nearly 40 percent, a jump from 18 to 25, when compared with the same period last year. Robberies were up 17 percent, and aggravated assaults were up nearly 14 percent.
Charlotte has seen spurts of violent crime all year, including last week, when police investigated five killings:
• On Tuesday, Jennifer Smith was found dead in her northeast Charlotte duplex along with Luc Eric Gonzalez. Smith’s ex-boyfriend, Jacquece Forest, is charged with murder in connection with the killings.
• On Wednesday, Todd Eric Boderick, 25, was charged with killing his 6-month-old daughter, Keyoni Boderick, at the extended stay motel where the family lived.
• And on Thursday, Ida Valentine and Clyde Valentine were found dead in their northwest Charlotte homes. Police said the killing was domestic-related, but would not comment on the possibility that the deaths were related to child sex charges filed against Clyde Valentine earlier this year.
Williams said she had been anticipating a spike as the holidays neared.
“It’s a time when people should be pulling together, they tend to pull apart,” she said. “I think we need to stay very vigilant during this time because the numbers could go up at any time.”
City Council member Andy Dulin, a Republican member of the board’s community safety committee, said the council probably will discuss what it can do about the spate of violence at its next meeting.
“I don’t have any council-related intelligence (on the crimes), but as a council member, we are concerned every day with our No. 1 job, which is community safety – and I’m sure as we sit down that subject will come up.”