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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

Finally, a Practical and Effective Solution to Birmingham’s Skyrocketing Violent Crime Problem is on the Horizon

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on June 14, 2024

IMAGE: This Birmingham, Alabama crime scene is littered with bullet casings from a recent gang shootout.

An Editorial Opinion

 

Saving the city of Birmingham, Alabama from violent street gang shootouts and cartel-level drug dealing is NOT a racial issue.  It is NOT a Democrat versus Republican issue.  It is NOT a political power grab.  It is NOT a political stunt.  


This responsible government action is simply the right thing to do for Birmingham residents whose tax dollars entitle them to adequate and effective police protection.

 

What is more, adequate and effective police protection is one of the seven basic city services to which every Birmingham resident is entitled in exchange for the payment of his/her local taxes.  Birmingham is obligated to provide adequate and effective public safety regardless of who serves as the city's mayor and city council members.

 

Today, public safety in Birmingham has collapsed.  Drug-dealing and gang violence has spiraled out of control.  Property values have plummeted.  The city is a war zone.  Bullet casings and bodies are piling up in the streets.  Birmingham is dying, literally and figuratively.

 

A Fully Staffed Birmingham Police Department Requires 900 Sworn Officers

 

A fully staffed Birmingham police department requires 900 sworn police officers.  Today, the city only has 430 officers working in three shifts of 143 officers per shift to provide administrative services, special operations, around-the-clock mayoral security, and public safety in 99 neighborhoods and communities.  This drastic reduction in force has created an immediate and extreme risk of danger to police officers on the force and the public.

 

For the first time in its history, the city of Birmingham is failing to provide adequate and effective police protection for its citizens.  Furthermore, City Hall has failed to offer any practical and effective solutions for combatting skyrocketing violent crime in the streets.  What is worse, the city is totally unprepared to deal with the most violent and ruthless street gang in town --Tren de Aragua. 

IMAGE: Tren de Aragua gang members.

Tren de Aragua, a Venezuelan street gang, infiltrated Birmingham in 2021.  These gang members are more violent than the fictional drug gang members depicted in Al Pacino's 1983 movie, "Scarface."  Within a year, the members of this gang, alone, will outnumber the 430 sworn officers on Birmingham’s police force.  Sadly, Birmingham City Hall is unprepared for the threat-level posed by Tren de Aragua.

 

A Practical and Effective Solution to Birmingham's Runaway Violent Crime

 

This week, State Rep. Reed Ingram and State Senator Will Barfoot proposed legislation that would allow the state of Alabama to take over police departments that fail to provide the basic public safety function of adequate and effective police protection.

 

Rep. Ingram likened this proactive public safety measure to the state's takeover of failing public school systems. Reed says the state would work with a city’s mayor while taking over the top positions in the police department. 

 

Birmingham is familiar with this takeover concept. The city experienced a state takeover of its failing public school system from 2012 to 2015.  Randall Woodfin, the city's current mayor, was president of the Birmingham City School Board from 2013 to 2015.

 

Before the state could take over a city’s police department, the number of sworn officers needed for full staffing must be down by 30%.  Today, Birmingham employs less than half of the officers it needs to provide adequate and effective police protection for its citizens.

 

The proposed legislation has been endorsed by Everett Johnson, President of the Alabama Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.  I endorse it, as well. 

 

In fact, on May 19, 2024, I called upon Gov. Kay Ivey to activate the National Guard to restore law and order in Birmingham as a temporary solution to this law enforcement crisis.  The Guard could supplement the city’s woefully anemic police force until it is brought back up to 900 officers. 

 

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, proactively deployed her state's National Guard to provide much-needed public safety for New York City's subway system. It worked.

 

Unless Gov. Ivey calls a special session to address skyrocketing violent crime in Mobile, Montgomery, and Birmingham, lawmakers will not consider the Ingram-Barfoot bill until the regular session of the Legislature begins in January 2025.


As a former Birmingham resident and taxpayer whose ultra-modern Class A office building in the upscale Highland Avenue South section of the city lost $3.2 million in value due to rising crime and other negative demographic factors, I strongly encourage the passage of the proposed Ingram-Barfoot public safety legislation. It's a solid, practical, sensible, and workable solution to the out-of-control violent crime problem that has plagued Birmingham.


Any mayor who enjoys 24-hour police protection at home and at work that is provided by a heavily-armed executive security detail (of up to 10 police officers) should NOT object to this reasonable, non-partisan, and effective public safety legislation.

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han gu
han gu
Jun 24
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

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greermac48
Jun 15

Why don't u run for Mayor? I don't know if u are still in Bham, however, u have the experience and the inside dynamics on the city operations, etc!

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Donald V. Watkins
Donald V. Watkins
Jun 15

Birmingham City Councilman Steven Hoyt was Right All Along!


June 15, 2024


In June 2019, a frustrated, longtime Birmingham, Alabama councilman named Steven Hoyt asked Mayor Randall Woodfin to consider requesting Gov. Kay Ivey to deploy the Alabama National Guard to control violent street crime in Birmingham. Woodfin, who enjoys heavily armed around the clock police security detail of up to 10 officers, refused to do so. Since then, over 914 innocent people have been murdered on the streets of Birmingham -- with no end in sight.


The city, which has become a street gang and drug-infested war zone, has less than half of the 900 police officers it needs to provide adequate police protection to its citizens. The out-of-control…


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Donald V. Watkins
Donald V. Watkins
Jun 14

One of my greatest regrets while working as Birmingham Mayor Richard Arrington's Special Counsel is our failure to make police protection and fire safety a metro-government public safety function among the 34 cities and towns in Jefferson County. It makes no sense to have 34 separate and distinct police agencies operating within the County. A unified police force would have avoided the manpower shortage problem Birmingham faces today.

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livingtho2
Jun 14

Normally you would think that Birmingham the largest city in Alabama would have at their disposal a SWAT team specialized in apprehending drugs and narcotics traffickers. I agree, that the proposal introduced by State Representative Reed Ingram and State Senator Will Barfoot to have the State take over the task which make sense and would solve the problem as a result of being more equipped to combat violence perpetrated by street gangs, and drug trafficking activities. Otherwise, these activies would continue to diminish property value in communities once referred to as prime areas in Birmingham to reside and open businesses.


The greatest concern about this excellent proposal, if it's introduced on partisan grounds then the liklihood a filibuster will occur…

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Donald V. Watkins
Donald V. Watkins
Jun 14
Replying to

Birmingham is no longer the largest ity in Alabama. Due to a systematic decline in the city's population over the last twenty years, Birmingham is now the 4th largest city in Alabama. Those who oppose the Ingram-Barfoot bill have no solutions for stopping the daily homicides.

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