by John Grooms
Republican mayoral candidate Scott Stone, sensing an opening for his fledgling campaign, has jumped on the Great 2011 Transit Center Area Riot like a starved dog on a soup bone. No sooner had city workers cleaned out the leftover garbage from Speed Street and the blood from two shooting victims, Stone popped up at the TC to tell the press that he blames everything on Mayor Foxx.
Stone said Foxx is more concerned with the citys image, in preparation for the DNC next year, than in protecting Charlottes citizens. He said that what he called the ongoing gang crime in our commerce centers, such as Uptown, are part of the daily challenges we face. Really, Mr. Stone? Ongoing gang crime Uptown is a daily challenge for Charlotte? Nice job of making an already tense situation worse. It's one thing to point out a problem realistically; it's altogether something else to raise fears even farther for your own political gain.
Stone went on to point out the most dreadful, tragic problem of all: If allowed to continue, these deadly, supposed daily Uptown crime sprees will result in people deciding to not go to dinner and shows in Uptown (OMG!!!!!) because they do not feel safe walking down the street. Stones answer to these problems? More aggressive pro-active enforcement of existing anti-loitering laws and curfews as a first step. In other words, turn Uptown Charlotte into a police state where everyone who doesnt look like a banker is suspect and his/her motive for even being in the sacred Uptown! area is questioned. Yeah, thats the kind of city Id love to see, how about you?
Stone says police officers have told him they cant do their jobs of keeping people moving Uptown because theyre worried about political correctness. Rather than speak in code, Stone should have just said, Our fine officers would love to harass young blacks right out of the center city, but they fear the boss may not like it. If thats true, you would certainly never have known it last Saturday night and Sunday morning when, as police now agree, tensions rose steadily in the hours before the shootings. Numerous reports from eyewitnesses say one of the main creators of that tension were the police themselves, who, eyewitnesses say, repeatedly harassed people that night while telling others to keep moving even when they were engaged in legitimate activity such as waiting for a bus.
As for people deciding not to eat or go to shows Uptown because of potential violence, here are three quick reminders: Uptown crime is significantly lower than in most areas of the city; there are already plenty of Charlotteans who avoid the center city because they're under the impression that its going to be like an episode of The Wire; and the Great Recession has much more to do with diminished restaurant and playhouse receipts than any perception of crime.
This writer doesnt have any readymade solutions to help the city avoid dramas and deaths like what occurred Sunday morning. Past experience and common sense tells me, however, that the city has allowed the Transit Center to become a collection of problems waiting to happen, and the police obviously did a piss-poor job (thats not the technical term) of crowd management. Enforcing the law doesnt mean you have to tear gas crowds or beat hell out of people because theyre blocking traffic, as one radio listener was heard suggesting this morning, but surely there are other, cleaner, ways to manage big crowds that are available to Rodney Monroes storm troopers. And if they dont know any other ways, they need to ask around and find some, for Gods sake. Theyre professionals in this situation, so train them to act like professionals; Charlottes not the place to start experimenting with the aggressive, proactive measures Scott Stone is talking about.