By Joseph D. Bryant
Housing Authority of the Birmingham District
More than two dozen Birmingham police officers converged at the Marks Village community last week, knocking on doors and meeting residents one-on-one.
The officers joined with the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District at the public housing complex in a show of solidarity with residents following incidents of gun violence there.
HABD and Birmingham police recently moved their regular bi-weekly meeting to Marks Village in hopes of gaining more community support and to promote a new tip line. Residents are encouraged to call 521-0694 or to email firstname.lastname@example.org. All calls and emails are strictly confidential.
“Senseless violence has to stop, and it stops today,” declared Jeffrey Gorley, HABD director of public safety. “We’re trying to connect our officers to the community, not just today but throughout. It takes a whole community. We’re reaching out to help us help them. We will look at every tip.”
Marks Village is part of the Gate City neighborhood in east Birmingham. The visit came after a shooting left a 13-year old boy in serious condition. Another shooting happened there just a day later.
“Any incident of violence is inexcusable, but gun violence that harms our children is especially intolerable,” said HABD President and CEO Michael Lundy. “We will continue to work with Birmingham police to address these issues, but there is no quick and easy solution. We need everyone’s help,” Lundy said.
Last year, Lundy introduced a multi-point security plan for HABD that included increased police patrols in all HABD properties, greater resident engagement and reduced entry points into Marks Village, specifically.
A plan to close several streets leading into Marks Village was later endorsed by Birmingham city planning officials, but still awaits approval by the Birmingham City Council.
The HABD tip line was recently expanded to include both traditional public housing and Section 8 homes, Lundy added. The housing authority manages about 5,000 traditional public housing apartment units and manages vouchers for another 5,000 privately owned Section 8 homes and apartment units.
“The tip line is just another tool that residents and concerned individuals may use to report crime [and] suspicious activity,” Gorley said. “It’s simple: If you see something, say something. Reports can be anonymous, and we will investigate every complaint. We can’t do this alone. Birmingham police can’t do this alone.”
Expansion of the tip line to include Section 8 came after discussions with Councilwoman Sheila Tyson, who asked for streamlined measures in reporting concerns from neighbors.
While HABD does not own Section 8 homes, violations of lease terms and criminal behavior could result in residents losing their HABD-managed subsidy. Also, neglect by landlords could result in property owners being tossed out of the Section 8 system and losing their guaranteed rent subsidies.