By Haley Wilson
The Birmingham Times
When it comes to tackling Birmingham’s crime issue, residents the city needs to consider several steps to reduce violence that range from education to police patrols and town hall meetings.
Carl Davis, President of Zion City Neighborhood Association, also wants young people to take JROTC [Junior Reserved Officers Training Corps] as a required course “so they can learn some discipline . . . They need to learn ‘yes sir, no sir’ and things like that,” he said.
Woodlawn High School has had a program, but all city schools should also, he said.
With 132 homicides last year, the city came within just nine slayings of its all-time high record. The last time homicides reached into the 130s was in 1994.
Some of the homicides have been brazen. In December, two brothers were killed in a shooting outside of a gas station in east Birmingham. “It was in broad daylight that that incident happened,” said Davis. “They were only in their twenties… we are losing too many of our children.”
Birmingham in 2021 had 10 more slayings than 2020′s total of 122, which was the highest number of killings in the city in 25 years — 121 homicides in 1995, according to AL.com.
Here’s more of what Davis, other residents and city leaders had to say about the crime in Birmingham.
Davis: “We need to have more male teachers in the school system. We’ve got to go out and find males who want to teach school and will be willing to sacrifice and take that low pay. Because it takes a whole village to raise a child.”
Along with better education, Davis suggests more crime conferences.
“We haven’t had one conference in the last 20 years. When these take place, everyone who attended should have a time to have their questions and concerns answered, along with maybe two to four preachers who get together and have a prayer day.”
Cheryl Scott, West Goldwire neighborhood: “If we could have a better relationship with the officers that are patrolling our neighborhoods that would be great…In some areas that are close to West Goldwire you see drug interactions, and that’s noticeable. You got neighbors noticing and they are alarmed…I would like to see the Sheriff’s department work directly with Birmingham Police Department and getting things up to par.”
“[Police] should get to know the people in the neighborhood… ask about hotspots because if you have a relationship with these officers, you can communicate easily with people you have a relationship with. So, if they [officers] develop relationships with the neighbors, then they will tell them about some situations that they see develop, because somebody knows something about everything that’s going on…and if you have a good relationship with your communities, then you’ll get information to be able to solve crimes and [address] a lot of issues before they even start . . .”
Delois Clayton, Arlington West End neighborhood: “People don’t even attempt to get along with one another anymore. We don’t communicate with one another, there is a big lack of communication. The barrier of trust is broken down as well. If we can’t communicate properly, how can we even trust each other?”
“There’s no care and no more love for the human anymore. We all live and breath the same. Yet, we don’t appreciate each other’s lives.”
Simetta Hamby, Airport Highlands neighborhood: “I came up in a different era where we respected elders. We respected our parents, and there were things you simply could not do that would not be tolerated in the household. I feel like life has gotten a lot more relaxed and easier as far as raising our children goes.”
“There is no guide, there’s no judge. Yet, people say that we need to do something now. The young people that we try to talk to don’t respect their mom and dad…so how in the world would I expect them to respect me, a complete stranger? The respect starts at home, and that’s the reason why there is so much crime. You have to respect people.”
Birmingham City Council President Wardine Alexander: “When I was growing up in Roosevelt City, people were better at living peacefully with each other. I wanted to be as respectful of my parents as I was with the lady next door, down the street, because I knew she had eyes watching me…do we have that in today’s society? We’ve learned how everybody just pays attention to only their own little world. We’ve just got to go back to some of those old ways of the way we work with each other and deal with each other.”
City Council Pro Tem Crystal Smitherman: “People are living more frustrated. The pandemic was end of 2019…The job market hasn’t been that well, a lot of people have lost their jobs during the pandemic. People are kind of pandemic fatigued, COVID fatigued…a lot of people are dealing more with mental health issues that aren’t being addressed.”
Councilor Hunter Williams: “We have our residents asking for more BPD officers and not less, so I think that shows that there is a positive relationship between BPD and its residents . . . but at the same time, I’m never about to say that there’s nothing we can do to improve because I think every city department can be improved in how it responds to the public . . . the city also needs to continue to carefully invest in BPD. We need to do so in a meaningful and thoughtful way. We don’t just need to throw a bunch of money at the department for whatever. That’s how we’ve seen departments across the nation have a greater disconnect with who they police, by just throwing money at the department.”
Councilor J.T. Moore: “I think that it’s extremely important for us to be able to direct people to spaces where they can receive the help, that they need to address, like those conflict resolutions, challenges that they may have, but also helping to just connect people to the community, like getting people more involved in neighborhood associations so that they can, number one, contribute in their neighborhoods, and just get to know the people who live there.
“I think by building better relationships, and getting to know one another, we can eliminate a lot of these negative feelings that we have towards one another.”