Saturday, June 4, 2011

Uptown's safety image facing an uphill fight

By dusk, the place changes. The workday crowd has come and gone from the Charlotte Transportation Center, filing on buses to be taken out of uptown. A new crowd has replaced it, coming off those same buses to hang out with a menacing, and growing, group.

Nooooo,” says Christina Cannie, standing with a coworker. “I don’t like to come here later.”
She is waiting for a bus to take her home from a shift at Showmars. She is here most weekdays, usually before dusk but occasionally later. That, Christina says, “is when people just start acting crazier.”

We’re talking about uptown safety again this week, and once again, our lens is pointing toward the transportation center. This time, it’s because of a Memorial Day weekend disturbance that ended with more than 70 arrests and one fatal shooting that Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say appeared gang-related.

City officials, including Police Chief Rodney Monroe and Mayor Anthony Foxx, have tried hard this past week to find the right combination of acknowledging the problem and assuring us it’s not really a problem. The situation was never out of control, they’ve said, and uptown ultimately remains a safe place.

It’s a tricky sell, but it’s important to center city. No one believes uptown is crime-free, but businesses need people to have enough comfort to visit restaurants and museums. For most of us, that comfort comes in knowing where – and where not – to be.

That’s how it works with the places we live. People most uncomfortable with Center City Charlotte are often those who rarely visit and see a unfamiliar, perilous landscape. People who work uptown or live nearby know it’s not nearly that threatening, with the exception of a few places at the wrong times. And even in those places and at those times, people learn what to avoid.

“You just stay in here,” says Christian Stephney, at one of the 20 bays in the open-air transit center. Christian has lived in New York and Philly and says it’s much safer in Charlotte, but when she’s waiting for a bus, she stays far from that crowd of young men outside the center’s northeast corner. “It’s better here,” she says.

Lately, however, the predictable has been less so. Across uptown, Johnson & Wales students were victims of three armed robberies next to campus this spring. Complaints are coming in, too, about safety on light rail trains and stops.

And last Saturday, the unrest that was concentrated around the transit center also spread blocks away. Visitors told stories of having to run – and not knowing where exactly to go. Suddenly, there was no place to be comfortable.

We’re hearing more of those uptown stories, it seems – and seeing more of them in scary Internet videos. CMPD statistics, however, show that safety is getting better, not worse, since 2007 at the transit center and in uptown, which continues to boast some of the lowest raw crime numbers in the county.

And yet we have last weekend’s melee, along with a similar incident five years ago, each of which bleeds into the perception that uptown is turning bad on regular nights, too. And with all of it comes the prospect of more people concluding that, you know, there are some pretty good restaurants in South Park, too.

What’s the answer for uptown? Some officials are talking about strengthening a toothless curfew law that fines parents whose children are out late. Foxx talked this week about parents, ministers and neighbors needing to step up – a sentiment that may be true, but sadly has proven more wishful than probable.

Others would like to move the transportation center and its problems elsewhere, which might satisfy center city business but leaves us facing another question: Are you OK with crime so long as we know that it’s that’s it not where you plan to be? It’s one more uncomfortable thing to consider in an uptown that’s suddenly full of them.


Anonymous said...

It's going to take a Bernard Goetz or similar action to take back our streets. It's unreal the number of both black and white folks who are now scared not only of going downtown, but of Charlotte's inability of law enforcement to keep them safe in a public setting. The only winners of this sad degradation of our once proud city are the gun shop owners.

Anonymous said...

Perception is reality. Crime stats are meaningless in the face of a high-profile disturbance and crime like we saw last weekend.

Charlotteans should rightly ask what their police department is doing to prevent this from happening again. The uproar from another such disturbance, leading to an escalating fear of the center city, will result in long-term damage not only to the center city but to our entire community.

Get with it, Charlotte government and CMPD. Mayberry died a long time ago.


Anonymous said...

Nothing will change until the blacks own up to the fact that it's their culture that has produced this mess. Until they work towards greater morals and a values system that promotes decent behavior - nothing will change.

Anonymous said...


It's definitely the blacks, particularly the younger males.

If you're black, maybe you have some sixth-sense about which ones you can and cannot trust.

I lack that sixth-sense, so I try my best to avoid them all.

So, yes, for my own safety, I have to judge people by the color of their skin (and their age, sex, and general appearance).

I'll worry about their "character" when it's not my life that's at risk.

Because I just don't need them in my life at all, there is no reason for me or my family to take any risks regarding their behavior.

So we'll just stay away, thank you.

Anonymous said...

It's not just the crime statistics, but the menacing and threatening behavior that ISN'T a crime and doesn't show up in the statistics.
It's also the "attitude" of the people who live on the streets and the constant tension or threat of crime that you have to deal with, and NOT just the actual "crimes".

What family wants this?

Anonymous said...

"the blacks" is this Donald Trump speaking?

Anonymous said...

Where in Charlotte is anyone safe? We need military commando police presence, brute force and shoot to kill freedom for the endless thugs and repeat repeat offenders.

Anonymous said...

So, 8:56, what you're saying is that you're just the OTHER half of the problem?

Anonymous said...

What you'd have preferred he said, "the negroes", or worse yet the more popular term used amongst that ilk to describe themselves?

Anonymous said...

I am a middle-age Black person and I too, recognize that the criminal element in Uptown CLT is mostly Black youth. No one in the community benefits from the intimidation of thugs. I would like to feel safe at the Uptown events and would like to see a stronger police presence. Perhaps CLT should do as they do in London and use their data to determine peak times and just flood the place with Police Officers in uniform and plain clothes. CMPD could help drive out the thugs and make more money for Uptown businesses.

Anonymous said...

Worlds biggest lies-

1. Weiner should be your daughter's Sunday School teacher.

2. The economy is in great shape.

3. Downtown is safe after dark.

Anonymous said...

or then "you people"

thanks, Ross and Donald

Anonymous said...

The city and the liberal do-gooders(churches) think they can encourage every rogue element into the center city without consequence. Every public bench and every street corner is inhabited by pan-handlers and they are increasingly aggressive. Every citizen should ride by the Hall House, "the wall", the Transportation Center, and other public places. In general, an uncivilized culture is being cultivated in uptown.

Public policy, in general, is the problem.

Anonymous said...

WOW, Not really impressed with the previous comments about "the Blacks" being the problem. It's everyone, every race. The majority of the people uptown are "the WHITES" that's all you see uptown. Just now you are seeing more and more African American people in uptown you automatically suggest "the Blacks" are the problem. No "the WHITEs" are the problem, not letting other races in to have fun, or just judging other races by their outter appearance. Yes it is true that it has been alot of unneed crime in the area, but hell it's better than New York, Atlanta, and any other big city. Live in those cities for a while and you will appreciate Charlotte a lot better and, not address the problem as only a race issue. School is out, where else do you expect people to go, especially when you open the city to Family Weekends, and have no age limits.

Anonymous said...

We moved here from the North East almost 10 years ago, and honestly I don't feel any safer than I did back then. I feel safer walking the streets of New York or Boston than I do in Charlotte. The city has a lot to offer, but the streets don't feel safe here, and when you compare crime statistics online with other places in the US, Charlotte does not do well. The per capita murder rate in Charlotte is ridiculous - how does this go on year after year and not improve?

Anonymous said...

Different weekend, better experience

Great to see a quick adjustment by the takes a multi-faceted approach to keep a city safe.

Anonymous said...

The blacks? Yeah listen to how racist u sound...