CMPD Chief Opens Up About Gang Issues In Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, NC. — A candid CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings didn’t hold back during an exclusive interview Friday. WCCB Charlotte’s Alexandra Elich asked him directly if Charlotte has a gang issue:

“I think any gangs that we have in Charlotte, I think that is an issue. I’m definitely not going to say that we’re immune to any of the gang problems that you see across the country because we do have identified gangs in Charlotte,” Chief Jennings says.

Historically, leaders in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department have not admitted there is a gang problem in Charlotte because saying there’s a gang problem decreases Charlotte’s desirability, according to UNC Charlotte Criminal Justice & Criminology Associate Professor Dr. Shannon Reid.

“I appreciate that the Chief is sort of being more open about it than we’ve sort of seen previously. A lot of times what we heard, especially in Charlotte, is rather than saying gang, sort of using that term, we hear a lot of gang-like activity,” Dr. Reid says.

Dr. Reid says we have affiliated gangs present in Charlotte, like the Bloods and Crips. But the majority of the gangs are loosely organized groups of young people. Gangs form naturally by people in the community who grew up together or who go to school together.

“Like other cities, most likely the seriousness of the gangs that we saw in the 80s and 90s is still going to be lower now than it was then. Are we going to see these flareups now that we have sort of a big population shift and a lot of people getting displaced, that’s certainly possible,” says Reid.

Chief Jennings says we need to work on prevention efforts as a community to combat the gang problem.

“I’m not talking about police programs or anything like that. But as a community, what can we provide those young people as an alternative? Because once they get to that cycle and get into that lifestyle, it’s very difficult for them to get out,” Chief Jennings says.