‘Who’s helping?’ Charlotte students talk juvenile crime, fear of gun violence at school

Charlotte City Council member Tiawana Brown led a town hall meeting with Charlotte-area middle and high school students on Thursday evening.

One goal of the meeting? Find solutions to increasing juvenile-involved crime.

Students pictured with Charlotte City Council member Tiawana Brown. March 2024.

By the numbers

According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s (CPMD) 2023 crime statistics report, juvenile shootings increased by 33%, and juvenile shooting victims increased by 18%.

Although homicides fell by 11% in 2023, during the meeting, Brown shared statistics that showed 27 homicides reported so far in 2024 — up from 18 around the same time last year.

Almost half of the 27 homicides involved victims between ages 16 and 25. By the meeting’s end, Sheriff McFadden announced that the 28th homicide of the year had been reported.

Juvenile property crime has become a significant problem in Charlotte. The crime report found a 120% increase in auto thefts, and 8,000 vehicles were reported stolen. Of the 1,200 auto theft arrests made, juveniles accounted for 68% of them. 

CPMD has credited the spike in auto thefts to a social media trend that influenced teenagers and young adults to steal Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

Student reactions

At the town hall, students did not appear surprised by the statistics.

“I’m sick and tired of dropping flowers off to mothers. I’m tired of having the lingering thought that hanging out at this party might be my last,” Phillip O’Berry Academy senior Lauren Kennedy said. 

“I’m tired of more non-profit organizations, I’m tired of more Instagram posts, and I’m tired of empty promises [from politicians],” Ardrey Kell junior Zahara Mushinge said.

Several students mentioned that gun violence has changed their school experiences, noting the many high schools in Mecklenburg County requiring students to walk through metal detectors to scan for weapons. In early March, at Rocky River High School, two guns were found on campus through the use of metal detectors.

“Every single morning, to get to my first-period class, I have to take out my belongings and be scanned for weapons. Every single morning, I have to be confronted with the opportunity and vision that today might be the day,” Mushinge said, noting a general fear of an active shooter.

Looming threats

Some students expressed that they often do not feel safe and are looking for support from adults to change that.

“I’m bothered by the increase in youth violence; I’m also upset with the lack of programs and services that are truly needed. We have teachers that don’t listen, guidance counselors that don’t guide, some parents that don’t invest into their kids and let’s [not] forget that lack of trust in law enforcement,” Harmoni Moorer, a Movement School eighth-grade student at Movement School.

“If a child has no one they can go to, they go to the streets, they go to gangs, they use drugs and make poor decisions, which is a cry for help,” Moorer said. “But who’s helping?”

Call to action

West Charlotte High School student and president of its student government association, Malachi Thompson, challenged students to “step up to the plate,” encouraging them to participate in changes they wanted to see.

“To the teens of Charlotte, we truly need to be the architects of change. Let us refuse to normalize this and stand and strive for a future where every step is a path towards safer communities.” Kennedy said.

Councilmember Brown said she believes that progress was made by hearing the opinions and frustrations of the students. She announced that she plans to continue hosting youth-led town hall meetings.

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