Homicides increase in first half of 2024 in Charlotte, North Carolina
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Homicides increase in first half of 2024 in Charlotte, North Carolina

Family and friends gather for a memorial service for the four people killed in the Juneteenth shooting on Beatties Ford Road two years ago in Charlotte, June 22, 2022.

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Between January and June of this year, more people were killed in Charlotte than in the first six months of any year since at least 2015.

According to preliminary data from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, 61 people were killed in the first half of 2024. At least 50 victims were shot, most with handguns.

The only period in the past nine and a half years to go beyond the start of 2024 was the second half of 2020, when 66 people were killed in a nationwide surge in violence at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The increase in homicides in Charlotte bucks a national trend, said Chandler Hall, senior policy analyst for gun violence prevention at the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit.

Nationally, gun-related homicides were down 13% in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the same period a year earlier, Hall said.

But homicides are up 33 percent here since the beginning of the year, according to CMPD data.

“It’s shocking to hear a city go so far in the opposite direction,” Hall said.

In search of the why

Several factors can influence short-term trends, according to Ernesto Lopez, a senior researcher at the Council on Criminal Justice. A particularly deadly month or a few incidents involving multiple victims can lead to an increase in homicides in a city, he added.

Charlotte had both.

Charlotte has already seen three incidents in which three or more people were killed this year.

A gunman killed four law enforcement officers on April 29 after a U.S. Marshals fugitive task force attempted to serve an arrest warrant at his east Charlotte home. The shooter, Terry Clark Hughes, Jr., was also killed.

Ashley Eyer places her hand on the casket of her husband Joshua Eyer after addressing mourners at First Baptist Church on Friday, May 3, 2024. Joshua Eyer was a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer, one of four law enforcement officers killed on April 29, 2024, during a standoff in east Charlotte. JEFF SINER [email protected]

On Jan. 27, three people were shot and killed in south Charlotte, just west of South Boulevard. At the time, Charlotte police said the shootings began during a fight between two groups in a parking lot. Arguments have been the cause of about a third of all homicides this year, according to Charlotte police data.

On March 17, the bodies of a mother and her two children were found in north Charlotte near Interstate 85 and North Tryon Street. The suspect, Benjamin Taylor, 34, was arrested in California and extradited to North Carolina. He is charged with three counts of murder and one count of concealing a death, according to CMPD.

According to an analysis by the Observer, there were 18 homicides in March, the highest number since at least 2015.

“Those kinds of things will certainly impact short-term trends,” Lopez said of multiple shootings. “You wouldn’t expect that to continue into the second half of the year or the following year.”

The Observer requested an interview with CMPD officials about the increase in killings, but the department did not respond. It also did not respond to written questions sent via email.

Some patterns persist

As in previous years, Charlotte’s homicide victims in the first half of 2024 were most often black men. Nearly all of the killings occurred in or around the city’s so-called crescent, a series of mostly poor neighborhoods that run east and west north of the city’s center.

According to the 2024 report CMPD Homicide Data:

67% of those killed were black, 18% were Hispanic and 7% were white.

87% of the victims were men.

The average age of the victims was 30 years old. The youngest was less than a year old and the oldest was 58, according to available data.

A New Way of Looking at Gun Violence

The American Public Health Association now considers gun violence a major public health threat, the leading cause of premature death in the United States.

Tracie Campbell, health officer for the Mecklenburg County Office of Violence Prevention, said it’s a disease often caused by trauma such as abuse and neglect. She compared gun violence and homicides to the pandemic.

“A person gets COVID-19 and doesn’t know it… They go out and spread it,” Campbell said. “It’s like having unresolved trauma when you don’t have anyone to help you deal with it.”

The county created the office about four years ago to help address that trauma, sometimes by referring people who have experienced violence to mental health services.

Campbell calls it a relationship-building program. The office partners with families, community leaders, churches, YMCAs and others to try to prevent violence, including intervening before it escalates.

C. Maria Macon, founder and executive director of the Mecklenburg Council of Elders, said she agrees that untreated trauma is the leading cause of gun violence in Charlotte. The nonprofit provides therapy to those affected by violence and helps people get their criminal records expunged.

She’s not surprised by the recent increase in homicides, she said.

“There are a lot of people who have untreated trauma,” Macon said, adding that “it may have happened when they were younger, but it’s coming out when they get to the age where they can flex their muscles. That anger is coming out now.”

This story was originally published July 8, 2024 5:30 a.m.

Homicides increase in first half of 2024 in Charlotte, North Carolina

Gavin Off has been the Charlotte Observer’s data reporter since 2011. He previously worked as a data reporter at the Tulsa World and Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, D.C. His journalism, including his data analysis and reporting for the investigative series Big Poultry, has earned him numerous national journalism awards.