Police crack down on crimes targeting the homeless

Police crack down on crimes targeting the homeless

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by TONY BURBECK / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @TonyWCNC

WCNC.com

Posted on October 25, 2013 at 5:09 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 25 at 9:59 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A police crackdown targets criminals preying on the homeless and the homeless preying on each other.

It's a problem investigators saw getting worse over the last year just outside of uptown, with more police calls and responses, especially along North Tryon Street, near the Men's Shelter of Charlotte.

Police noticed a lot more people hanging around the men's shelter who don't stay there, but were responsible for committing a growing number of crimes.  They targeted those people and it's cut crime near the shelter by 35%.

Cells phones, bus passes and pocket money are some of the main items criminals are after in the shelter area.

"We found some people were just coming around victimizing them, trying to encourage them to be involved in drug activity, that sort of thing," said Men's Shelter of Charlotte Facilities Director William Hicks.

"We responded to violent crimes, robberies, assaults and drug-related crimes," said Lt. Norman Garnes with CMPD.

It was a trend that couldn't continue and led to a plan to fight back.

The shelter worked on its banishment policies. Businesses cleaned up surrounding properties, leaving fewer places people to be robbed and criminals to hide.  Police got into cleanup mode and identified 22 homeless camps.

"We didn't realize how many camps were there, we didn't realize how big some of the camps were," said CMPD Sgt. Bret Balamucki.

So far they've cleaned 20 of those camps, but not before offering help to every person they found staying in them, by putting them in touch with local charities that can help get them off the streets.

"We make the phone call to bring the services to them and take them to the services," Balamucki said.

The homeless robbing other homeless is another trend police found growing, and another reason to get them help.

"They're less likely to be victimized, they're less likely to hit a moment of desperation and commit a crime, so by taking that away, we've seen the reduction," Balamucki said.

Police say that reduction is a 35% drop in crime within a quarter mile of the shelter and a 19 % drop in the surrounding response area.
 

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