No city can thrive when citizens do not feel safe in their homes, at work, or in too many of our communities. Under Mayor Bell, Birmingham has been designated one of America’s most dangerous cities. With 104 homicides, 2016 was one of the most violent years in Birmingham’s recent history — the first time that number has exceeded 100 in more than a decade.
I have served as a prosecutor. I’ve also been a victim of violent crime in Birmingham. I know firsthand the toll that gun violence has on our families and our communities. As your Mayor, I will work every day to ensure that every neighborhood in Birmingham is safe and secure.
To accomplish that goal, Birmingham needs a comprehensive strategy for reducing crime and enhancing the safety of all of our citizens. Our city government needs to invest all of the resources necessary to make neighborhoods safer, support first responders, and address the root causes of crime.
As Mayor, I will implement a five-point Crime Reduction and Public Safety plan:
Point 1: Reduce handgun violence
- Over four years, address current understaffing by expanding the Birmingham Police force to 1,000 officers.
- Create and deploy Dedicated Area Response Teams (DART) — a specially assigned unit that will patrol key neighborhoods during times when violent crimes are most likely to occur.
- Invest in installing and maintaining adequate lighting and shot detection/response technology in neighborhoods that have experienced high handgun crime.
- Work with our local legislative delegation to increase penalties for possession of, and crimes committed with, unlicensed handguns.
- Partner with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office to create a specialized court for violent felonies that involve gun possession by high-risk, repeat offenders.
Point 2: Put first responders first
- To attract the best possible candidates — and to be competitive with surrounding municipalities in hiring them — increase starting salaries for all new Birmingham Police officers.
- Restore annual cost-of-living salary adjustments for ALL Birmingham Police and Fire & Rescue personnel — a policy Mayor Bell abandoned.
- To ensure that our officers have the most up-to-date equipment available to protect themselves and do their jobs, conduct an equipment and technology audit of the Birmingham Police Department and develop and implement an ongoing modernization plan for the BPD.
- Engage the Birmingham business and philanthropic community in creating a nonprofit foundation to provide perpetual support for our police officers and firefighters and their families.
- As a recruiting and retention tool, work with the Alabama Housing Finance Authority and our local colleges and universities to establish homebuyer assistance and tuition reimbursement programs for first responders.
Point 3: Invest in Birmingham’s youth
- Engage the business and philanthropic community to expand the Birmingham Police Athletic Team program throughout the city.
- Expand and enhance employment programs through the Mayor’s Division of Youth Services.
- Identify and deploy public and private resources to support more intensive mentoring, counseling, and job placement services for nonviolent juvenile ex-offenders.
Point 4: Improve Birmingham’s approach to criminal justice
- Expand the city’s “Ban the Box” employment policy to include companies that receive a contract from City of Birmingham.
- Work with the Birmingham City Council to adopt a tax credit for local businesses that hire ex-offenders.
- To aid and assist formerly incarcerated Birmingham residents, create the Mayor’s Office of Reentry Services to develop and implement “wraparound” programs to reduce recidivism; services will include counseling, housing, adult education, and job training and placement.
- Work with the City Council to establish a Civilian Oversight Board to help optimize the performance of our police department and promote open communication and good relations between the BPD and the citizens it serves.
- Through the city’s Law Department, partner with the Jefferson County District Attorney to enhance pretrial diversion and restorative justice programs for youthful and nonviolent offenders.
- Partner with the District Attorney to launch a community prosecution program, focused on deterring low-level crimes through both prosecution and intervention in the lives of juvenile offenders.
- Initiate a public review of the “Use of Force” policy for the BPD, including substantive input from citizens and other community stakeholders.
Point 5: Fighting crime before it happens
- Accelerate demolition and land banking of the nearly 10,000 blighted properties in Birmingham.
- Establish community centers and churches in key precincts as “Opportunity Centers,” where residents can receive targeted and intensive job training and placement services.
- Ensure effective community policing throughout the city by: 1) expanding foot patrols downtown and in key neighborhoods and precincts, and 2) conducting an annual survey of Birmingham residents, businesses, and community organizations on their experiences with and perceptions of the BPD, and utilizing that and other information in an annual review of BPD policies and practices.