Despite the city’s rising homicide rate and a recent rash of highly publicized violent crimes, Birmingham-area law enforcement officials say they are optimistic about the city’s long-term crime-fighting prospects, due in part to an array of government agencies working together.
After a violent start to September, which saw seven homicides in its first eight days, Birmingham is on track to have its deadliest year in decades. As of Sept. 20, there have been 86 reported homicides this year, compared to the 79 counted at this point last year, which was the deadliest year for the city since 1994.
“It’s too high for sure,” said Jay Town, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, which is centered in Birmingham. “It makes you wonder if we weren’t putting all of this effort … I shudder to think where those numbers might be.”
Town, who has been on the job for roughly 13 months, said he has worked to develop a “vertical” model of law enforcement that includes federal, state, county and local departments. It’s a model, he said, that can serve as a crime-fighting method going forward.
“The only promise I can make is that we are establishing long-term processes, and it takes time,” he said. “As much as we would like in the Magic City to have crime disappear overnight, we are taking the painstaking efforts to make sure that there are systems and methods and processes in place that are going to last a lot longer than any of us.” Read more.
Six homicides happened in Birmingham during the first week of September, putting the city firmly on track for its most violent year in more than two decades and pressuring city leaders to improve their strategies for responding to such incidents and to focus on preventing them.
The first homicide of the month was the highly publicized death of 16-year-old Woodlawn High School student Will Edwards, who was killed in his North East Lake home just after midnight Sept. 1. The following evening, seven teenagers were shot during a gunfight at the downtown music venue WorkPlay, though none were killed.
Mayor Randall Woodfin described the weekend’s incidents of youth violence as a “devastating blow to our community.”
By the end of the first week, five more homicides had been reported by the Birmingham Police Department, four of which happened within a 24-hour period. Just minutes after the week ended, the city already had logged its first homicide of week two. It wasn’t the most homicides that have taken place in a single week this year — that would be an eight-homicide stretch between July 29 and August 4 — but it has placed Birmingham firmly on track to have its deadliest year in recent memory.
The Jefferson County Commission waded back into the issue of small cities’ providing for their residents after learning that the air conditioners at Brighton’s senior center were not working and seniors were being subjected to 90-degree temperatures. Read more.
Balch & Bingham attorney Joel Gilbert and Drummond Vice President David Lynn Roberson were found guilty this afternoon on all counts in a trial over allegations former Rep. Oliver Robinson was bribed to oppose the expansion of an EPA clean-up site in north Birmingham.
Both men had been charged with conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and three counts of wire fraud. A third defendant was dismissed from the case earlier this week. Robinson has pleaded guilty and agreed to work with prosecutors. His sentencing date had been set or next month but earlier today was extended until September.
This story will be updated as events develop.
Incumbent Steve Marshall has raised almost $600,000 more than challenger Troy King in contributions as the two campaign for the July 17 Republican runoff for attorney general, according to financial reports filed this week with the Secretary of State’s Office.
Marshall, whose wife, Bridgette Marshall, died June 24, reported that he did not raise any money during the reporting period of June 23-29. But he reported a $25,000 contribution on Tuesday, after the latest weekly reporting period was over, from the Automobile Dealers Association of Alabama Inc. in Montgomery.
Marshall has raised $2.41 million so far during the campaign and has spent $2.14 million, leaving a balance of $287,783 in his campaign account.
King, who is seeking nomination for the job he held from 2004 to 2011, reported contributions of $39,605 during the last week of June, bringing his total for the campaign to $1.81 million. He has spent $1.72 million and has a balance of $86,870. Read more.
Birmingham’s controversial PACE Board is back in action after being defunct for nearly a year.
The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to appoint new members to the board in order to secure approval for a new restaurant at the Negro Southern League Museum, despite deep reservations by some council members over the board’s accountability.
The Public Athletic, Cultural, and Entertainment Facilities Board — PACE, for short — is a five-member board created by the city in 2011 to oversee development of Regions Field and the Negro Southern League Museum.
But the board drew ire from the council after construction costs for Regions Field went over budget by roughly $8 million, $4.1 million of which the council is paying off in installments through 2021. The rest of those costs were taken on by development companies Robins & Morton and A.G. Gaston Construction.
Candidates for Shelby County Board of Education, Place 1, in the June 5 primary