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Jefferson County leaders address ‘unacceptable’ uptick in gun violence

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Mayor Randall Woodfin during a press conference addressing gun violence in the city of Birmingham.
By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times

Birmingham’s mayor and police chief; Jefferson County’s Sheriff and DA and the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama on Friday announced a partnership to stem gun violence in Birmingham and across Jefferson County.

The alliance comes in a month that has seen an uptick in gun violence including one week that left at least seven dead and more than 10 wounded. 

“This constitutes a unique law enforcement partnership that I believe is necessary to tackle gun violence,” said Mayor Randall Woodfin, during a virtual press conference from downtown Birmingham Police headquarters. “Together, we are committed to a coordination that will further . . . our common goal, an all hands on deck effort to reduce gun violence.”

The goal is clear, said the mayor. “If you carry a gun in Birmingham, intend to do harm or have already committed a violent crime, we’ll find you . . . If you haven’t committed a crime, but are illegally carrying a gun, you will have a choice to either work with us to get the help you need to put the gun down.”

City Councilor Hunter Williams, who chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee, said the combination of law enforcement officials and agencies will use all resources to track down criminals. 

“There is no individual or group who can compete with us,’’ he said. “We will make sure that those who commit violent crime in our city will be outmanned, out-resourced and outworked to ensure a safer Birmingham to ensure that our residents have the opportunity to safely work and play and raise a family in this city.”

Jefferson County DA Danny Carr said those carrying illegal firearms are being put on notice.

“It is better to light a candle then to stumble around in the dark and there has been a lot of darkness in our community due to gun violence and a lot of hopelessness but today, this collaborative effort symbolizes that light,” he said. “This light . . . puts people on notice that if you have a gun, and you shouldn’t have that gun, there are going to be consequences.” 

Sheriff Mark Pettway said residents can help in the crime reduction. 

“If we want violent crimes to stop, we have to share information to identify these criminals… we want our citizens to be engaged and call law enforcement before a situation can turn violent,” he said. 

Police Chief Patrick Smith, who said more than 800 guns have been taken off the street this year; 2,570 in 2020 and 2,200 in 2019, also called for citizens help.

“None of us can do this alone,” he said. “We need action from the community, we need every person in the community to help us build a safer, more vibrant Birmingham as well as Jefferson County. It takes all of us, all of us standing here today and those of you in the community.” 

Woodfin acknowledged “there is a considerable amount of anger and sadness as well as concern in our community. As we’ve made progress in lowering all other forms of crime, gun violence in our community still hovers at a rate that is unacceptable,” he said.