In the aftermath of a recent shooting during a New Year’s Eve celebration in Uptown Charlotte which left 5 people and 3 police officers injured, Charlotte City Councilman Tariq Bokhari has taken steps to propose and ultimately implement a crime task force for the city designed to prevent such incidents in the future, particularly among juveniles.  

In terms of where the proposal for the task force stands, Bokhari said he has made it official with other city leaders and they are receptive to the idea.

“I have made the proposal for a CLTCC task force on crime official,” he told Carolina Journal in an emailed statement. “The response from fellow council members has been cautiously optimistic, and we have had several meetings strategizing next steps. Many recognize the necessity of such a task force, though there are varying opinions on its scope and approach. As for the public reaction, there’s strong support. Our community wants action and accountability, and this task force represents a step towards that. It’s about bringing together diverse perspectives to formulate strategies that are not only effective but also sustainable.”

Bokhari said the primary objectives of the task force are to focus on crime analysis and recidivism rates, working closely with city leaders in law enforcement and other organizations.

“The primary objective of the task force would be to conduct a thorough analysis of the crime patterns in Charlotte, focusing particularly on repeat offenders and the factors leading to recidivism,” said Bokhari. “The task force should be empowered to work closely with law enforcement, the General Assembly, judicial systems, and community organizations to develop data-driven strategies. It’s not just about law enforcement; it’s about rehabilitation, community engagement, and preventive measures. The goal is to create a multifaceted approach to reduce crime and enhance public safety effectively. Concepts are already being vetted like revisiting the effectiveness of ‘Raise the Age’ legislation, to a scorecard approach for Magistrates, to laws holding parents more accountable for the repeat criminal actions of youth.”

Under the “Raise the Age” initiative, which became effective in 2019, nonviolent offenses alleged to have been committed by those up to 19 years old will be heard in juvenile court instead of the adult criminal justice system.

The “Raise the Age” legislation and scorecard approaches were discussed in more detail during a meeting Bokhari recently held with NC legislators John Bradford and Tim Moore. Bokhari thought the meeting produced successful outcomes and intends to have the general assembly involved.  

“It was a great session and we left with two main takeaways,” Bokhari said. “One was to analyze the “Raise the Age” legislation to see if it is achieving the goals that it set out to achieve. The second was the crafting of a scorecard approach where we can measure across every magistrate in the state and see who’s doing what and analyze the outcomes in a city like Charlotte versus elsewhere so that they can hopefully manage themselves through a scorecard, hold whoever manages them accountable, and potentially have the General Assembly step in and put more minimum standards like they did in the long session for some of the other things that were happening regarding bail procedures. With the support of Tim and John along with other folks in the senate, and now with the attention we’ve garnered on the crime task force, I think there’s a scenario where we could potentially overhaul the magistrate system with this scorecard approach. I think that’s got a lot of potential.”

The task force plan also has the support of the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s office. In a statement to CJ, Michael Stolp, who serves as its Community Liaison Coordinator, said the office is willing to work with Bokhari on improving public safety in Charlotte.

“We are grateful for Councilman Bokhari’s interest in promoting community safety, and, to the extent there’s a willingness to sit down and work on public safety issues, we are more than ready to actively engage,” he said. “In the meantime, we’ll continue to work with our law enforcement and community partners to advance public safety, today and every day.”

Deterring crime in the Queen City

Addressing rising criminal activity in Charlotte has been an issue for many years. City leaders and other stakeholders in crime prevention have had to deal with a host of problems including retail theft and rising levels of crime among juveniles, the latter of which increased in 2023. Bokhari said the statistics are indicative of a problem which needs solving.

“The data speaks for itself,” he said. “We’ve seen a 14% increase in crime in 2023, which is a significant and concerning trend. Property crimes exceeded 38,000 last year, well over 5,000 more than 2022, and juvenile arrests rose by an astounding 34%. This isn’t just a perception; it’s a reality that’s affecting the daily lives of Charlotte’s residents.”

Crime prevention is sure to be a hot button topic for large urban centers in North Carolina this election cycle as well.  

“Public safety and crime are likely to be central issues in the 2024 elections for communities like Charlotte,” Bokhari told CJ. “Given the recent trends and the increasing concern among the electorate, it’s evident that voters are looking for candidates who have clear, actionable plans to improve public safety issues they are experiencing every day. The community is seeking leadership that can navigate these complex challenges with a balanced approach, focusing on both prevention and enforcement. The electorate’s desire for a safer Charlotte will undoubtedly shape the political discourse and priorities in the upcoming election.”

Media Reactions

In placing emphasis on the necessity to keep Charlotte safe, Bokhari also drew attention to the hypocrisy of local media in how they perceive community safety and the crime data in Charlotte. Bokhari told CJ that in the months and weeks leading up to the election to retain his seat on city council last year, local media outlets and other community leaders presented a narrative that was inconsistent with the message Bokhari was trying to send to voters.

“I think there’s an aspect that needs to be recognized right now, that this an astounding turn-around from a city of major mainstream media outlets and leaders pretending and marketing their way to say crime wasn’t a problem when everyone knew it was, to the point where people are now starting to accept the basic premise that ‘Ok, maybe there’s a problem, so what’s next?’”