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Council Quickies: Public Safety and Police Transparency

Sept. 12, 2022

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The new Charlotte City Council stands behind the dais.
Charlotte City Council was sworn in on Sept. 6. From left: New rep Marjorie Molina, incumbent Renee Johnson, incumbent Dimple Ajmera, returning rep James ‘Smuggie’ Mitchell, incumbent Braxton Winston, returning rep LaWana Mayfield, Mayor Vi Lyles, new rep Dante Anderson, incumbent Malcolm Graham, incumbent Tariq Bokhari, incumbent Victoria Watlington, and incumbent Ed Driggs. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

ON THE AGENDA:

  • SAFE Charlotte/Alternatives to Violence
  • CMPD Update/Disparity Report
  • Business Items

What happened:
A new Charlotte City Council was sworn in last Tuesday, and on Monday, Sept. 12, they met for their first business meeting. The council heard from CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings and Federico Rios with the city’s Housing and Neighborhood Services on issues of public safety and police transparency before moving onto business items.

What’s next:
Council will come together again for a zoning meeting next Monday, Sept. 19.

SAFE Charlotte/Alternatives to Violence

Federico Rios led a presentation on the Alternatives to Violence pilot program, based on the Cure Violence Global model and implemented by Youth Advocate Programs. You can read more about the SAFE Charlotte violence interruption plan that was put into motion in late 2020 here.

Rios said the Cure Violence Global team asked that the local program not provide a full annual analysis of the pilot program, which first launched on the Beatties Ford corridor in August 2021, because of drastic changes that have occurred (changes in leadership, staff) but he was able to provide some data.

According to the data, there have been 106 aggravated assaults in the Beatties Ford area so far in 2022, though the area has overall seen a decrease in violent crime as compared to previous years. The ATV violence interrupters have mediated 45 situations and seen 19 participants pass through, meaning troubled youth that interrupters help with jobs, graduating school, etc.

At Monday’s meeting, council was scheduled to approve $1 million in funding for the next phase of ATV in Charlotte, so Rios also presented council members with what that might look like. He said staff has identified three locations for the next phase: the Nations Ford Road/Arrowood roads corridor, Southside Homes, and the West Boulevard/Remount Road corridor. Rios suggested treating these as two sites, combining Southside Homes with West Boulevard and Remount Road due to their close proximity.

Renee Johnson asked for more specifics about why the data behind the Alternatives to Violence program was deemed to be “skewed,” as Rios had put it, to which he responded that the entire team doing work on the ground turned over in December, so data collection began in February.

Rios said the team brought on in August 2021 “decided to transition out” last December, though Queen City Nerve has spoken to multiple sources familiar with the program that say the team was let go due to inconsistencies with paperwork. No leaders with any of the organizations involved — Cure Violence, Youth Advocate Programs, or the city of Charlotte — have agreed to comment on the record to confirm that reporting.

violence-interruption program
Belton Platt was originally tapped to lead the violence interruption program on Beatties Ford Road corridor but left in December 2021. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Ed Driggs wanted to know when council will have data to look at from Alternatives to Violence, to which Rios said there will be a one-year report formulated in February 2023 to analyze how the approach has worked on the Beatties Ford Road corridor since the new team took over.

Malcolm Graham asked if the ATV violence interrupters on Beatties Ford are working together with police who patrol that area, to which Rios said such collaboration would undermine the credibility of the interrupters. He serves as a go-between if needed.

Council would later vote unanimously to approve the $1 million in federal funding to begin implementing the next phase of Alternatives to Violence.


CMPD Update/Disparity Report

Following CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings’ presentation on crime stats and police recruitment efforts, new Mayor Pro Tem Braxton Winston asked him about the department’s new media policy, which by all accounts points to less transparency from CMPD.

Jennings said CMPD’s goal is to focus on answering public records requests, which his department is legally bound to do, rather than requests for public information, which have been overwhelming his public information office. Those will no longer be a priority.

Jennings said rather than answer media requests his department will post the info they think the community needs to know on social media and their app. LaWana Mayfield wanted more explanation for this, pointing out that some residents don’t use the app or social media but count on local media.

Jennings claimed there will be no real change to the way CMPD provides information to the media; they will still regularly provide press releases and info they want the media to know they just won’t prioritize the media’s specific questions and requests for info (so … a real change).

Colette Holt of Colette Holt & Associates, which was contracted to carry out a disparity report analyzing how many of the city’s prime contracts go to Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) presented the report’s results to council.

The report found that Black-owned businesses see the most disparity when it comes to city contracts, as they have been awarded 2.4% of contracts despite making up 3.8% of the business community — a 61.9% disparity ratio.

According to Holt, it is ideal for a MWBE group to be in the 80%-100% range when it comes to disparity ratios (50% means 1:2, 100% means 1:1, 200% means 2:1, etc.). Here are the rest of the MWBE demographics and their disparity ratios in Charlotte, according to the disparity report.

  • White women: 80.5%
  • Native American: 135.8%
  • Asian: 521.5%
  • Hispanic: 100.8%

Business Items

Council’s first vote was on an opportunity to preserve Peppertree Apartments as naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH) for at least 20 years through a city/county rent subsidy program. At nearly 300 units, it’s larger than any of the city’s previous NOAH projects.

The Peppertree apartment complex is located in east Charlotte at the corner of Central Avenue and Kilborne Drive. The project will cost $55.8 million, with $8M coming from the city (tonight’s vote), $4M from the county, and the rest coming from other funds and programs.

Tariq Bokhari said he’s supportive of this effort but wanted to see more direct tie-ins to workforce development and other programming to help folks get out of the financial situation they’re in. He said as long as those programs are just “a side note,” the city’s housing efforts will be “a hobby.”

The motion passed unanimously.

Council voted unanimously to approve changes to the city’s sponsorship policy to help expedite the process when private sector organizations want to offer sponsorships to help CMPD’s Animal Care & Control during rescue events or CMPD in missing person situations. Some of those opportunities are missed due to the timing required to fulfill the sponsorship approval process.

Council approved ratifying agreement with the county to provide shuttle service through CATS to the Ramsey Creek Park beach between Memorial Day and Labor Day next year. Funded by the county, the current shuttle service recorded Memorial Day weekend ridership at over 2,100 riders.

Council approved a land exchange to offer right-of-way along the light rail to allow for a mixed-use development near the intersection of Rampart and Hawkins streets. Three council members opposed.


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