By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
First of three parts
In October 2018, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin released his strategic plan which focuses on six goals to better Birmingham. When he released the plan, he promised a six-month update. On Thursday, March 21, the mayor presented the update titled “The Big Picture” at the Alabama School of Fine Arts Mae Jemison Theater.
The six goals are: one, safe, secure and sustainable communities; two, healthy, thriving and diverse neighborhood; three, high-performing 21st Century education and workforce development systems; four, innovative and inclusive economy supported, shared and served by all; five, highly effective, people first, smart government; and the six, global, legacy leadership partner of equity and social justice.
“I want people attending this event to have a clear understanding of where we are with progress of our plans for Birmingham,’’ said Woodfin, during the 90-minutes program. “We have remained committed to our core values and we will continue our work as we push to put people first.’’
Six speakers provided updates on each goal:
- Patrick Smith, Birmingham Police Department Chief of Police; (Goal 1, safe, secure and sustainable communities)
- Edwin Revell, director of Planning, Engineering and Permits (Goal 2, healthy, thriving and diverse neighborhoods)
- Rachel Harmon, deputy director for Talent Development in the department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity (Goal 3, high-performing 21st century education and workforce development systems)
- Tene Dolphin, deputy director for Business Diversity and Opportunity in the department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity (Goal 4, innovative and inclusive economy supported, shared and served by all)
- Cedric Sparks, the mayor’s Chief of Staff (Goal 5, highly effective, people first, smart government)
- Denise Gilmore, senior director of the Office of Social Justice and Racial Equality (Goal 6, Global, legacy leadership partner for equity and social justice).
Chief Smith discussed some of the initiatives that have already been met for goal one such as increasing the number of police academy classes and officers switching to a 4 day, 10 hour shift. The goal is to increase up to 1,000 the number of officers for the city by 2020.
“I said we would increase the number of police academy classes . . ., this year we’ve increased our academies to three, next year we should have four so that we are keeping up with the attrition and increasing the number of police officers on the street,” Smith said. “Our goal is to reach 1,000 officers for the city of Birmingham by the end of 2020. The other part is in making sure that we have smart deployment, that we have enough officers responding to calls and to reduce the response time. We went to a 4-10 (four days per week; 10-hour shifts) at the end of last year so that we had a number of officers on the street at critical times of the day.”
The means four layers of deployment and overlapping deployment to make sure there are enough officers to respond to calls for service and also to reduce response time, he said.
The department has also combined units to increase detectives, expand coverage and reduce caseload and increased foot patrols in key neighborhoods and precincts, he said.
The chief said plans are in the works to bring 30 additional officers back to the streets of Birmingham through a lateral and rehire program.
“Both of them are in full swing right now,” he said. “We have a lateral program where we brought in 10 laterals already and will graduate an academy class just next week where we’ll graduate 18 new officers and in addition to those, two more laterals I recently swore in and four more rehires.”
“With the rehire program we’ve been able to curtail the attrition rate to 70 percent so a number of officers that would have gone to other places are staying right here in this city to give more to the citizens,” he said.
The chief also talked about concerns from citizens about the lack of street lighting. “We’re adding 30,000 new LED lights throughout the city to make sure we can eliminate any dark areas and we’re curtailing crime also with that,” Smith said. “The city of Birmingham is working on our real time crime center and that’s where we’re planning to leverage all of our technology and bring it into one central hub.”
A “Real Time Crime Center” will be established within the next year to help police monitor active crime scenes. That center would involve technology such as the predictive software PredPol, ShotSpotter technology, and the city’s recently approved surveillance cameras.
“Pred Pol” will improve patrolling by using years of date to indentify times and locations where specific crimes are more likely to occur, according to city officials.
The goal is to invest in the city’s infrastructure and residents in the 99 neighborhoods including people and places, to make a better city,” said Revell, who added there are projects taking place all over Birmingham to reach the goal whether street improvement projects, sidewalk improvements, drainage improvements, parks and public facilities.
“Millions of dollars are being invested and it is our goal to make sure it is done in a way that we add to the quality of each neighborhood and that the people . . . are fully engaged and fully invested in the shared responsibility,” said Revell.
Key projects underway is the construction of the new Wylam Library and also at Wahouma Park, developing small business incentives to actively recruit grocery stores, the Complete Streets Ordinance and implementing additional neighborhood rezoning and regulating plans, he said.
Revell said there is $8 million in the Neighborhood Revitalization Fund that will be invested in street resurfacing, patching and sidewalk improvements. “These projects contribute not only to the health and vitality of our neighborhoods but also serves as incentives for private investment and we’re really excited about the opportunities they will continue to create and magnify and amplify throughout our neighborhoods,” he said.
Part II in the Birmingham Times and online during the week of March 31 will focus on: Goal three, high-performing 21st Century education and workforce development systems and Goal four, innovative and inclusive economy for all.