North Carolina started the year off with a bang, sadly, many of them. Those celebrating the New Year in Charlotte scrambled to flee a mass shooting downtown, as a gunman opened fire at Romare Bearden Park. Five were injured, and the police later arrested 19-year-old Daevion Crawford for the incident. Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles released a statement calling the shooting “horrific.”

The night before, Sergeant Philip Dale Nix, an off-duty police officer with the Greensboro Police Department, was killed when he tried to intervene as three teens stole beer at a Sheetz gas station. The three teens were arrested and charged.

But the remaining city of the state’s three largest, Raleigh, wasn’t any more fortunate on bad headlines regarding violence, as data came out showing Wake County broke its single-year homicide record in 2023, with 56. Raleigh was also ranked the 15th worst city in the nation for homicide by WalletHub for the year.

Thankfully, 2023 saw an overall trend down nationwide on homicide. After a historic spike between 2020 and 2022, murder rates declined by 13%. But it’s not enough to get the issue off the front of most voters’ minds.

A late September Civitas poll found that two-thirds of North Carolina voters considered public safety to be a top concern for them. White and Hispanic voters considered drug use to be the biggest public safety concern, while black voters saw violent crime as the top concern.

“As North Carolina continues to experience a population and investment boom, municipalities will have both the opportunity and challenge of ensuring that public safety investment is prioritized,” said Locke CEO Donald Bryson at the time. “We’ve seen the decline in states with cities like San Francisco and Chicago, where crime goes unpunished. State and local leaders need to be proactive in ensuring our state remains safe and trusted as a good place to do business and raise a family.”

Interestingly, some notoriously chaotic West Coast cities like San Francisco and Seattle, are seeing organic citizen-led movements for better public safety. And they’re starting to yield real results. Seattle just elected six self-described “moderate” city council members, seizing majority control after many years of far-left rule. The new council members interviewed below said that public safety is their top priority and that they want to encourage a positive relationship between the city’s elected officials and the police. One of the new members said the lack of public safety often came down to a “permissive environment,” where elected officials and prosecutors made excuses for crime rather than trying to fix it.

The same holds in our state, where, even in North Carolina’s smaller cities like Asheville and Chapel Hill, citizens are becoming frustrated with the “permissive environments” in their own community.

And similar to the situation in Seattle, even though North Carolina voters don’t seem to be satisfied with public safety where they live, they do not directly blame their local police force — with 57% rating local law enforcement as “excellent” or “good,” 24% saying “fair,” and only 10% saying “poor.”

Most citizens know that their local police are stretched thin and that they are being met with increasing hostility. Police departments need more officers and resources, not blame. The kind of community policing and broken-window policing that are needed to actually create an environment of peace and stability are impossible when they are understaffed and are forced to prioritize major crimes.

Voters see this and lay blame elsewhere, like on politicians. Just because it’s true that “that government is best which governs least,” doesn’t mean we should skimp in those limited areas rightly delegated to government, like law enforcement. Voters also, of course, blame weak prosecutors for sending many criminals back on the streets and the criminals themselves for choosing to ignore laws and harm innocent people.

It turns out people want to be able to shop, raise kids, go to public events, and generally live their lives without the threat of violent crime or the nuisance of intoxicated drug users around every corner. Legislators and other public servants should take note.