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Mayor’s plan to reduce violence unveiled

Mayor William Bell

By Ebone’ Parks

The Birmingham Times

Mayor William Bell (File photo)
Mayor William Bell (File photo)

Birmingham Mayor William Bell last week hosted a luncheon in Sixth Avenue Baptist Church to introduce his six-point strategic plan for violence reduction in the city.

“The lives we save will be the leadership of the future,” said the mayor.

Area pastors; police officers; community leaders and activists were among those in attendance.

The mayor’s “Six-Point Strategic Plan for Violence Reduction” is as follows:

  • Convene a local leadership team and city-wide work groups
  • Engage African-American males from the most affected neighborhoods in community conversations to develop sustainable solutions
  • Support Birmingham Police Department efforts
  • Engage and support parents and families
  • Strengthen the skills needed to stop the cycle of violence
  • Construct and implement a data-driven, multi- year plan of action

“It takes cooperation in the community and the police department,” he said.

Joyce Vance, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, said it’s important for everyone to understand and talk with one another “because black lives matter and blue lives matter.”

Raymond Howard, a community activist and author of “From Crime to Christ”, said dialogue and meetings like Friday’s are needed because if not, problems continue to fester. “It just continues to boil and then it spills over into the violence that we see,” he said.

In his book, Howard spoke of how he lived a life of crime, spending seven years of his life incarcerated and 13 years on parole.  He is on the front line in the community because he is able to relate to the young men because he was once in their shoes, he said.

Bell discussed how everyone should be involved in helping young people by going back to “basic rules.” He’s been working with community leaders to find different ways to reduce violence.

“I want you to understand that I’m not just standing here because I just want to make a show,” Bell said.  “I’m standing here because we’ve got bodies in morgues; we’ve got bodies in graves whose lives were cut way too short.”

In 2014, Birmingham’s homicide numbers were the lowest in almost 50 years. Even though the 46 homicides so far in 2016 are on pace to become among the lowest on record there is still a lot of work to do, said Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls.

“There is no number that is acceptable. The only number is zero,” he said.

“I believe that we should all be involved in efforts to stop crime and violence before it happens. We should all be involved in efforts to change lives before they go down the wrong path,” the DA said.