Confronting Crime

In 1971, Charlotte’s top weapon against crime was willpower 

In honor of our fortieth anniversary, we look back at some of the articles that have shaped Charlotte magazine.

1971 CoverThe Charlotte magazine of the late 1960s and 1970s—the early years—employed some excellent talent, but it also, like many nascent city magazines across the country, often exhibited the influence of the local chamber of commerce. That is, even when things were bad, things were good.

In the January/February 1971 issue, writer James E. Heffner confronted an apparent rising crime rate (no statistics were cited) in a piece titled "Crime and Banishment." It was the first time the magazine published a major feature on crime. The story begins with an apparently fictional account of "Nick, the friendly neighborhood grocer" being gunned down in cold blood: "Murder! It happens with sickening frequency in cities—large and small—across the nation." Heffner interviews various local officials about why crime is going up. Among the responses were some reflective of the times: "There's no denying that permissiveness has run rampant throughout all levels of society. We're now seeing the results in increased crime rates." Other posited ideas sound familiar: the breakdown of the family, the overburdened court system.

A local clergyman, the Reverend F. B. O'Shields, described as "the handsome young pastor of St. Giles Presbyterian Church," founded a group called Citizens Help Eliminate Crime. "We don't know the reasons for our astronomical crime rate," O'Shields said. "We intend to study and research that very question."

The article closes with a bold prediction, founded on nothing more than pure boosterism: "Look for a decrease in the number of serious crimes in 1971. With a new vigilance on the part of an aroused citizenry and an updated manpower deployment system by the Charlotte Police Department … it must happen."

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