Category: Crime

Birmingham Pastor Calls for a State of Emergency Over Murder Rate

Birmingham ended in 2020 with 122 killings – up by 13%. Of that total, 105 killings were ruled justifiable, mirroring a trend of increase in many American cities.

The city began 2021 with three killings in three days – one per day.

Rev. Paul Hollman of Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Birmingham launched a billboard campaign last year to raise awareness after a member of his church was shot to death. This week he called for Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin to declare a state of emergency. Hollman spoke with WBHM’s Andrew Yeager.
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Birmingham Police Need the Public’s Help in Solving Homicides, Woodfin Says

Mayor Randall Woodfin pleaded with Birmingham residents on Wednesday to help police in homicide investigations, saying police have “hit a wall that’s hard to crack” in many cases: uncooperative witnesses.

There have been 120 homicides in Birmingham this year, 15 of which have been ruled justifiable. Sixty-two of the remaining 105 homicides remain unsolved. That low clearance rate, Woodfin said, “is not because our detectives are not doing their job.”

“Trust me, they are,” he said during a news conference with Police Chief Patrick Smith. “But we don’t have more solved cases in part because there are some people who know who are behind these killings, but they won’t say anything.”
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Birmingham City Council Approves Software for Police Department’s Real-Time Crime Center

Updated — The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to implement new software for the Birmingham Police Department’s real-time crime center, despite public concerns that the agreement could pave the way for facial recognition software to be used by city law enforcement.

The resolution will allow the city to lease-purchase rights to Motorola Solutions’ CommandCentral Aware and BriefCam softwares at a total cost of $1,315,659 over a five-year period.

Fifteen residents — several of whom had also vocally opposed Mayor Randall Woodfin’s FY 2021 budget — spoke against the proposed agreement at Tuesday’s meeting, expressing concerns that BriefCam’s capability for facial recognition could have a negative impact on residents, particularly Black people, who are misidentified by such software far more often than white people.
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Approval of New License Plate Cameras Stir Up the ‘Defund the Police’ Argument in Birmingham

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to approve the installation of 10 license plate recognition cameras as part of a deal with Alabama Power. The utility will install and maintain the cameras at a monthly cost of $2,291.67 to the city.

The council passed the item unanimously but not without some public criticism. Keith O. Williams, a resident representing the community action group People’s Budget Birmingham, told councilors that his organization had written to all nine councilors Monday requesting a public hearing on the item but had received no response.

The group was concerned, Williams said, over “excessive use of funds for the police department” during a year in which the city is facing a significant revenue shortfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more.

Former Governor Turns Attention to Criminal Justice System Following Release From Prison

It has been three years since former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman was released from prison after being convicted of federal corruption charges in 2006. One thing remains unchanged about the case: Siegelman maintains he is innocent.

A jury convicted Siegelman of bribery for soliciting a $500,000 donation from then-HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy for a fund to support his education lottery campaign. Prosecutors say in exchange, Siegelman appointed Scrushy to a state hospital regulatory board. Siegelman said the prosecution was politically motivated.

In a new memoir, “Stealing Our Democracy: How the Political Assassination of a Governor Threatens our Nation,” Seigelman lays out how he saw the case and trial. But paints himself as a fighter for criminal justice reform after experiencing what he believes was an improper prosecution.
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Crime Slows as People Shelter from Coronavirus

Crime isn’t taking a coronavirus holiday, but law enforcement statistics show it headed in a positive direction as more people shelter from the pandemic.

In fact, streets in the Birmingham area and around the world are not only safer from crime so far in 2020, but also from automobile accidents. Evidence indicates, however, that domestic disturbance calls in some communities are increasing as people spend more hours together at home.
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Woodfin Touts Neighborhood Revitalization Work, Cuts in Crime Rates in Update on his Administration’s Progress

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin marked the halfway point of his first term in office Tuesday evening with a presentation highlighting his administration’s accomplishments and broadly gesturing toward his plans for the next two years.

Tuesday’s event, which took place at the downtown Birmingham venue Haven, followed a similar presentation that took place in March, also titled “The Big Picture.” Both events were intended to provide an update on the Woodfin administration’s strategic initiatives. But while March’s event featured presentations from a slew of city officials, Tuesday night’s presentation centered on a half-hour speech from Woodfin. Read more.

Questions Loom One Year After Hoover Mall Shooting

It’s been one year since a Hoover police officer shot and killed a young black man in a crowded mall on Thanksgiving night. The shooting of 21-year-old Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr. happened at the Riverchase Galleria Mall after officers wrongly thought he was the person who fired a gun in the mall. The incident led to several protests and calls for justice. Read more.

Jeffco District Attorney’s Office Looking to Speed Up Work on Untested Sexual Assault Kits

The Jefferson County district attorney’s office is looking to ramp up its efforts to deal with the county’s massive backlog of untested sexual assault kits. A pending expansion to a 2016 federal grant would allow the office to increase the rate at which old kits are tested — and would allow for the appointment of a new prosecutor who would focus on those backlogged cases.

The office originally received a federal Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant in 2016. An inventory that was finished in September 2017 found that 3,876 sexual assault kits — which law enforcement use to collect DNA evidence after a sexual assault — had not been submitted for testing. Since then, 275 kits have been sent to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences for testing, at a rate of 25 per month. But a new expansion to the county’s grant would allow the county to double that rate, sending 50 kits per month to the state lab for testing. Read more.