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Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin joins national effort to curb crime

Even though crime stats are down, people are worried

Crimes reported in Fayetteville, 2016 to 2023.
Crimes reported in Fayetteville, 2016 to 2023.
Fayetteville Police Department

Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin is part of a new Black Mayors’ Coalition on Crime, which is described in a news release as “an initiative to harness the collective power of black mayors across the nation to fight crime.”

The organization has 21 mayors from 12 states, the news release says. It held its first meeting in Memphis, Tennessee, on Wednesday and Thursday. Memphis Mayor Paul Young is leading the effort.

“I think it was good to talk with mayors from other parts of the country, who have similar or the same problems,” Colvin said on Thursday from Memphis. “Many of the root causes that we’re dealing with in Fayetteville, they’re dealing with. To hear about some strategies that have worked, some that haven’t. And to brainstorm is always good.”

What’s driving the effort?

Regardless of the actual crime rate, bad or good, people are worried.

The public’s perception is that the nation’s crime rate is “extremely serious” or “very serious,” national pollster Gallup reported in November. That is the highest level of concern in at least 24 years.

However, this same poll said most people surveyed were not so pessimistic about crime in their own communities — only 17% reported feeling that crime where they live was either “very serious” or “extremely serious.”

How bad is crime?

Nationally, most reported crimes declined in 2023 vs. 2022, according to data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In Fayetteville, the Police Department said in February the number of crimes reported has fallen in six of the past seven years. There were 14,665 reported crimes in 2023, the lowest since 2016 when the number reported was 19,345.

However, homicide victims in Fayetteville reached a high of 53 in 2023, up from 44 in 2022.

So far, 2024 is shaping up to be better than 2023, Colvin said.

“We’ve only had — not ‘only,’ ’cause one is too many — but we had three homicides so far this year, compared to we were at 12 last year this time,” he said.

What fuels the perception of crime?

“When you see something that happens, very bad, even though it may not happen often, or it may have had less incidents, I think with today’s communication channels, the press, everyone sees it,” Colvin said. “ They’re able to see it on the phones. They talk about it. And it’s very impactful.

“And I think over time, that gives a perception that you’re not safe. It’s all about what people feel,” he said.

What can be done to address perception vs. reality?

“I think we’ve got to do a better job communicating what’s going on with our constituents,” Colvin said.

In Fayetteville, Colvin said, efforts to get tough on crime are underway, but they don’t produce results overnight.

“That kind of thing needs to be talked about,” he said. “That some of these policies take longer to have the effect that we’re looking for, but they are working.”

For example, in Fayetteville, violent people are being held in jail more, vs. being released on bail, Colvin said.

What can Fayetteville learn from the other cities?

Some ideas for handling crime that Colvin said he learned in Memphis:

  • Set up “focus groups” in communities with more crime, where residents learn of conflicts or other situations that could lead to violence. They can alert the city. “It was on-the-ground intelligence that led to disrupting and dismantling some of that activity,” he said.
  • Have strong management of “rapid response teams” or task forces whose job is to quickly respond to areas with drug activity and other criminal activity.
  • The city of Charlotte had a task force that broke up an organized crime ring that was bringing stolen cars to the city, and creating falsified documents for them.

Election year is important

Colvin said cities need to tell the presidential candidates that their communities need crime prevention and crime-fighting resources.

“Both candidates will be coming through our states at various times,” he said. “I think that it’s time that we make sure that they’re committed, or that they give a commitment to the things that are important to us.”

Which communities can join the anti-crime initiative?

Although the organization is called the Black Mayors’ Coalition on Crime, it’s open to all who can help, said Young, the Memphis mayor.

“My hope is that this will be the start of a broad ongoing national effort to find real solutions to this very complex issue,” Young said in the news release. “I believe we can leverage our collective platforms to create change in the policies, laws, and resources needed to reverse the trend and heal our communities. We cannot wait.”

Senior reporter Paul Woolverton can be reached at 910-261-4710 and pwoolverton@cityviewnc.com.

This story was made possible by contributions to CityView News Fund, a 501c3 charitable organization committed to an informed democracy.

fayetteville, crime, memphis, mitch colvin, mayor