Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales came across Linn Park today to speak to the Birmingham City Council, pleading for help for what she said are rising instances of crime in the East Precinct.
Scales’ visit came a week after Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin strolled across the park to speak with media about the former city councilmember’s efforts to get a pair of Jefferson County Sheriff’s offices put in the city limits of Birmingham.
The appeal is a repeat of requests made during her time on the council. Woodfin said last week the offices — initially requested to be substations — were not needed because of dropping crime in the area and the proximity of those proposed offices to the East Precinct police station.
Scales disputes the claim of lower crime. She said crime statistics for Birmingham blur the truth.
“If you have a drive-by, there was a time that you had four individual case numbers,” she said. “You no longer have four individual case numbers, you only report to the one incident. Therefore, it makes the crime appear in terms of statistically that you are down by 75%.
“I’m only here to help,” the commissioner said. “I am not interested in trying to compete with a city that I serve. I respect you all because I know what you have to do.”
Woodfin didn’t hear the commissioner’s appeal for help. He left the council chamber to address media in his office before Scales spoke.
Scales said she was present more as a resident. “I didn’t give up my citizenship when I became a commissioner,” she said. “The bottom line, you’re the leaders of the city. And I’m making it very clear the reason why I’m going to project looking at you, Mr. President. But this will be absolutely for the mayor because I’m not going to make the public to believe that you’re in charge of the police department, because you’re not.”
Scales distributed printouts of 2018 and 2019 text conversations she said she had with the mayor and police chief at the time in pursuit of more police coverage in eastern Birmingham. She said later that she turned to Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway to get coverage from his department.
Initially, her appeal to her fellow commissioners was for a pair of Sheriff’s substations in Birmingham — on Parkway East and Carson Road. Pettway and she subsequently shifted that effort to offices to deal with victims of violent crimes.
None of her three fellow commissioners who were present offered a motion to bring the matter to the agenda of last week’s commission meeting.
“Certainly, we have an issue in Birmingham with respect to crime,” Councilman Steven Hoyt said after Scales addressed the dais. “This has really been a battle cry of mine on the western side because we have more than our share of these instances where people are losing their lives to gun violence.”
As though speaking to Woodfin, Hoyt continued: “It probably wouldn’t be as great of an issue if in fact you weren’t going around … suggesting that crime is down, when in fact it’s not. And to suggest things are normal. It’s not normal.”
Scales said later she is committed to whatever can be done to provide an increased law enforcement presence, including her efforts to put a sheriff’s office in eastern Birmingham.
“The mayor has two former council members who have now gone over to the county,” she said. “Really, he should be helping to support any initiative that will aid the city of Birmingham.”