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Mayor Woodfin Looks at ‘Out-of-Box’ Strategies to Combat Gun Violence

From left: Interim Birmingham Police Chief Scott Thurmond; Mayor Randall Woodfin; LaRhonda Magras, CEO, YWCA Central Alabama. (Haley Wilson, The Birmingham Times)

By Ryan Michaels

The Birmingham Times

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said Tuesday he and other city leaders are looking at “out-of-the-box” prevention strategies to combat gun violence in the city following a weekend where two more teenagers were shot and killed in Birmingham, bringing the city’s teen homicides up to six in only the first two months of 2022.

Woodfin said he and the Birmingham Board of Education are working to implement a conflict resolution curriculum for third through twelfth graders.

“We believe the earlier we can get to our young people, and engage, the better. If there’s an issue, that they don’t want to retaliate, there’s an issue, that they won’t pick up a gun, so that’s a long-term play,” Woodfin said.

While the curriculum is still in development, Woodfin said it could potentially be rolled out by the start of the 2023 school year.

The mayor also pointed to the city’s partnership with the Jefferson County Department of Health where case managers will work with hospitalized gun violence victims to prevent future acts of violence. Mark Wilson, Jefferson County Health Officer, has said that program will start out “very slow.”

In the meantime, communicating with Birmingham families, the primary way to reduce the level of violence, is priority, Woodfin said.

“I don’t think we can program our way out of gun violence, let me make that very clear. We can come up with the best curriculum programs…[We] could put a violence interrupter on every corner. I think part of what we have to do is continue to talk to our young people and instill hope,” Woodfin said.

Woodfin also highlighted domestic violence as a concern in the area. On Thursday, 49-year-old Felicia Ford was killed, and Birmingham police believe it to be the result of a domestic dispute, according to AL.com.

“If you are a victim of domestic violence, if you know someone that is a victim of domestic violence . . . please be reminded or feel encouraged to know that you do have an escape, you’re not trapped, there is help available,” Woodfin said.

LaRhonda Magras, CEO of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Central Alabama, said her organization provides shelter to domestic violence victims, as well as counseling and legal services.

“We are here to support victims. One in three women and one in four men will experience some form of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, and one in 15 children witness that violence,” Magras said.

The YWCA of Central Alabama’s 24-hour domestic violence hotline can be reached at (205) 322-4878.