Times staff report
The Birmingham Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a proposed $1.8 million contract with the Birmingham Police Department for extra public safety and policing services in HABD communities.
The Housing Authority of the Birmingham District also announced the hiring of a new public safety director who will begin this week.
The proposed agreement with BPD will now go to the Birmingham City Council for a vote. The contract includes language to implement 24-hour police services for certain communities if BPD and HABD deem necessary based on crime stats.
Under the proposed two -year contract, BPD would dedicate 14 officers, one sergeant and one lieutenant for all of HABD’s 14 public housing communities. There is language in the agreement for officers to provide 24-hour policing at designated sites if deemed necessary by BPD, and police substations are also a possibility.
“Our hope is that additional public safety services will make a difference and help to decrease crime, particularly in communities that have greater criminal activity,” said HABD President/CEO Michael O. Lundy. “This intergovernmental agreement will strengthen HABD’s relationship with the Birmingham Police Department and is part of a larger plan to reduce crime and violence in public housing. Another part of the security plan is to reduce the footprint of our sites to create communities that are manageable for law enforcement and property management,” he said.
The HABD also hired Ken Foremen as new public safety director. Foremen is from Detroit, MI and has 27 years of law enforcement experience. He’s a former police officer, worked for the US Marshal Service and served time in the Army. Foreman has an extensive background in investigations, has great communication skills and a passion for public safety. He was chosen during a nationwide search for applicants which was narrowed down to two finalists.
Birmingham City Councilor Steven Hoyt, a former HABD administrator who has voiced numerous concerns about safety in public housing, applauded the moves.
“This community policing looks a little bit more intentional and hands on than we’ve had in the past,” said Hoyt, who worked at HABD for nearly 25 years. “Having been a manager in public housing . . . this contract seems more comprehensive.”
It would be important for officers patrolling the grounds to get out of their cars and walk the site so children can get to know the policeman. “People in public housing need to feel and have some sense of safety and that is paramount,” Hoyt said.
The councilor added that the hiring of a public safety officer is also needed. “That way you establish continuity in terms of what you are trying to achieve,” Hoyt said. “A public safety person has a vision and some kind of understanding of how he needs to police. To have someone [police officers] report directly to helps out too. The Birmingham police officers will have to report to the housing authority. They will not be given a blank check.”
Hoyt said the council looks forward to reviewing the contract with “enthusiasm.”
Many of the council districts include public housing sites, he said, “I’m almost sure everyone will be excited by this contract,” he added.