Montgomery leaders sit down with WSFA 12 News to discuss crime p - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Montgomery leaders sit down with WSFA 12 News to discuss crime problem

Posted: Updated:
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

The city of Montgomery is on pace to break a record it would most certainly like to avoid. Tuesday's shooting of a 19-year-old man on Gaston Avenue marks the 15th homicide in just the first three months of 2013. There were 52 homicides in all of 1975.

City leaders and officials with CrimeStoppers sat down with WSFA 12 News to discuss the city's crime problem. They're promising a much more aggressive approach to deal with the violence.

Mayor Todd Strange called the homicide statistic "distressing" and said "Montgomery is better than this." Visibly concerned, the mayor traveled to the latest homicide crime scene Tuesday afternoon on Gaston Avenue to plead for an end to the violence and to promise action. "It's almost like the straw that broke the camel's back..." he said, adding that it's time to do something different.

It was just months ago that the mayor and other leaders were touting overall hard data on reduced violent crimes from 2011 to 2012. There was, however, 1 more homicide over the previous year (31 vs. 32).

Director of Montgomery Public Safety Chris Murphy said everyone is concerned about the violence, but cited "the beauty of...data-driven enforcement" and the Department's on-going, long term commitment to working with the faith-based community, universities and others to drive down the violence. While Director Murphy says 2011- 2012 data says "that we did well..." 2013 is showing "that we're in a bad situation."

Chief Murphy said he's instituting new shifts, moving officers to 8 hour shifts instead of 10. He says the move will allow him to put 28 more officers on the street when and where they're needed. It's important to note that the officers are not new hires, just movement within schedules.

Structural changes are also coming to the Montgomery Police Department. After Tuesday's homicide, authorities put what they call their 3 best assets to work to take on crime. Those are the Patrol Division, DART (Direct Area Response Team) and Special Operations Divisions.

Murphy says teams have been created to "very aggressively" target certain streets, not entire neighborhoods. Murphy says he wants "concrete results" and says while out Tuesday night, the teams arrested 2 people on felonies, 5 for misdemeanors and 6 for capias warrants. They also seized an illegally obtained gun.

Murphy says it's hard to explain why there's been an increase in the homicide rate, saying that's part of the long term efforts to drive down violence. But Murphy says the data can tell him immediately if departmental techniques need to change. 

Just as important as the detectives who work the scenes are those working to bring forward tips from anonymous sources. It's a job CrimeStoppers does well.

Director of CrimeStoppers Susan Moss considers the organization "a go-between the police, the community and the media." In its quest to reward those who give tips that lead to arrests, Tuesday's homicide was no different. Three people anonymously called 215-STOP to submit tips about the crime.

"It works," Mayor Strange and Director Murphy both said.

"This program is the community's program," CrimeStoppers' Lt. Tony Garrett said. Garrett said citizens should call the program even if they only saw something they think is small or insignificant. "You never know what information that you may be holding onto could be that extra little key or step that may solve that crime," he said. 

"We do want to make sure that we make life as miserable as we can for those who are not obeying the law," Mayor Strange said.

Copyright 2013 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved. 

Powered by WorldNow