Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $1,000,000)
Mecklenburg County is the second largest county in North Carolina, with over 1.1 million residents and an influx of population at a growth rate of over 21% since 2010. In 2021, the US Census Bureau reported that Mecklenburg County had the following demographic breakdown: 56.6% of the population as white, 33.3% as Black, and 14.1% as Hispanic or Latino, who showed the most growth, increasing by 1.9% since 2010. In calendar year 2022, Mecklenburg County had over 18,000 arrests, with an average daily jail population of just over 1,100. Gathering and sharing crime statistics with the public is important but understanding data nuances is often misinterpreted. When it comes to interpretation of data that represents the functionality of a local government, it can be challenging to decipher whether the numbers indicate a problem or showcase the results of hard work within the criminal justice system. Effectively communicating to the public about data trends takes understanding of what the numbers mean and articulating these outcomes in a comprehensive way. Mecklenburg County’s Criminal Justice Services (CJS) mission is to lead data-driven decision-making, effective programming, and interagency collaboration to reduce criminal justice involvement and strengthen the well-being of local community. The department will lead a researcher-practitioner project aimed at examining the trends in criminal offending and population change in Mecklenburg County over the past several decades. The goal in mind is to present a data-informed narrative that tells the story of crime over the past several decades and explain the nature of criminal offending in this community. Furthermore, a data enhancement and visualization project will build upon existing data within CJS. This project will be completed in collaboration with two partners: a local University to complete the research project; and a third-party data analytics vendor to complete the dashboard project.