Charlotte-Mecklenburg saw a 25% increase in assaults with guns during the first six months of 2022, and many of those crimes involved juveniles, according to a mid-year report by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
Between Jan 1 and June 30, 118 juveniles were suspects in gun-related crimes, the department reported, and 482 juvenile were victims of gun-related crimes.
Suspects as young as 13 were responsible for crimes including theft, burglary, assault and even murder, the report indicated.
“If you don’t think a 13- or 14- or 15- or 16-year-old kid can kill somebody, you’re wrong. They can and they do,” Maj. Brian Foley told reporters who attended the mid-year briefing, which was held at Faith CME Church in Charlotte’s Hidden Valley neighborhood.
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In a written statement, CMPD described a system of “catch and release” whereby teens are arrested for crimes and then quickly released, only to commit additional crimes. The statement described the situation as “frustrating and disheartening to both officers and the communities affected by the violence.”
“Things have to change,” Foley said. “The public needs to take a good, hard look at the juvenile justice system in the state of North Carolina and the county of Mecklenburg about how it operates.”
In one instance recounted by CMPD, two brothers, ages 15 and 17, were arrested in early June for possession of firearms then released to family members. The next week, on June 15, the teens fired guns in the middle of their apartment complex on Southwest Boulevard, hitting apartments and eight vehicles, the department said. An 11-year-old child inside one of the vehicles was hit by a bullet and taken to a hospital with a life-threatening injury.
In another incident recounted by the department, a 14-year-old suspect removed an electronic monitoring device after committing an armed robbery. “He went on to commit three separate shootings into occupied properties over the course of July 4th and July 5th,” CMPD said in the statement. The teen drove a stolen car from one of the shooting scenes. When approached by officers on July 5, the boy, along with a 16-year-old and 17-year-old, led officers on a chase that went into Cornelius, “driving incredibly recklessly and at speeds that exceeded 100 miles per hour,” CMPD said. All three teens were arrested.
CMPD said it offers more than 25 programs designed to keep kids away from crime, but Foley said parents must take responsibility, too.
“Mothers, fathers, you should know where your kids are. You should know what they’re doing,” Foley said.
CMPD posted a video of the mid-year briefing to its YouTube channel.
According to CMPD, many of the guns used by teens to commit crimes were stolen, often from cars, or left unlocked in homes.
“Parents and caregivers are not properly locking up their firearms at home. Community members are leaving firearms inside their cars – and in many instances unlocked – where firearms are easily stolen,” CMPD said in the statement.
Since the beginning of 2022, at least 500 guns were stolen from cars in Charlotte, the department reported.
Vehicle theft, which saw a 10% increase, was a common way for young suspects to get firearms.
Some crime categories saw declines in the first half of 2022.