By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
So far this year Birmingham has had 11 murders, including four already in February, said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin during a Monday press conference at the McAlpine Park Community Center in Ensley.
Woodfin said he was “hurting” and “frustrated” but was short on specifics on how he planned to address the crisis.
“Although we’ve been in the office for eight weeks, it’s important that in the coming days we will lay out a blueprint to tackle these issues and the rationale for our design,” he said. “Like you, I’m tired. I’m grieving and I’m hurting and I’m frustrated.”
The mayor opened his press conference by naming four people who died in the first three days of February.
“They’ve joined others since January 1. Eleven lives murdered [since the beginning of the year.] Let that sink in,” he said.
Woodfin said he ran for mayor pledging to address crime and remained committed to his promise.
“People of Birmingham are our greatest asset . . . these are people in this city I serve, these are families I serve. One homicide is too many, which is why we have to have a zero tolerance for this.”
The mayor said he is holding the police accountable, but he is also holding citizens accountable.
“I need your help … when you see something, say something,” he said. “Let’s all of us stop the next murder from happening in Birmingham.”
One option to preventing crime is for people to consider resources the city may have, Woodfin said.
“If you’re unemployed or seeking business opportunities we’re always here to help. There are people you can call. You can call us, you can call me. We need to think about a different way to solve issues than just picking up a gun.”
Woodfin was joined at the press conference by several members of the city council include Steven Hoyt, Hunter Williams, John Hilliard and Darrell O’Quinn.
Hoyt said citizens have to be more vigilant.
“The mayor said, ‘if you see something, say something’, I’m going to go a little further,” Hoyt said, ”if you notice something, say something and then call because there are indicators. If we see strange folks walking in our communities, if we see strange cars going down the street, that’s how we better police our community.”
Hoyt said most crimes happen when people know each other.
“I need us to pay more attention to those who meander through your neighborhood and that’s what’s important,” he said. “I appreciate the mayor for holding this conference today. He’s been up close… concerned about what’s happened in this community.”
Hilliard pledged to work with the mayor. “It’s going to take all of us working together to make a difference,” he said.
Hilliard added that the clergy needs to be active. “They listen and have the attention of a lot of voices.”
Birmingham is not a lawless town, Woodfin said.
“It’s not a culture to just rob or steal or take someone’s life,” he said. “IF you’re unemployed or seeking business opportunities we’re always here to help. There are people you can call. You can call us, you can call me. We need to think about a different way to solve issues than just picking up a gun.”