SELMA, Ala. (WSFA) - Help in the form of a $1 million emergency grant is coming to Selma. It’s funding that will weed out those who are terrorizing the community.
“You identify what we call the trigger pullers and violent offenders,” stated U.S. Attorney Richard Moore of Alabama’s Southern District. “Generally they are people who are illegally in possession of firearms. You get the worst of the worst off the streets.”
That work has already begun. Moore announced 19 defendants from Selma are currently under indictment and set for trial in October. While the defendants haven’t been identified, authorities say having them locked up has already created a safer Selma.
“Residents are saying they already feel safer,” said longtime District Attorney Michael Jackson. “We managed to get a lot of gun slingers off the street, gang king pins and drug king pins. With this million dollars we are going to stamp out crime.”
Selma Police Chief Spencer Collier was appointed two years ago as the violent crime was escalating. During his term, criminals have shot at at least a third of the police force. One officer was struck but has recovered and returned to work.
“These are not want-to-be gangs,” Collier explained. “These are hardened criminals. They are led by shot callers. We’ve made significant progress getting shot callers on pretty serious charges.”
Police were outmatched by firepower and resources. Collier’s team now has the necessary resources and the grant will help fill in the remaining gaps.
Still, the use of high-caliber weapons remain a threat to public safety. At one point, 70 percent of the shootings in Selma were carried out with a high-caliber, military-grade weapon.
“In 22 years, I’ve never witnessed the abundance we’ve seen,” Collier said of the long guns.
While many are stolen, Collier said some used in the commission of violent crimes are purchased legally.
“In a former life I was a politician and as pro-Second Amendment as you can be,” he stated. “I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s time to have a conversation about an 18-year-old’s ability to purchase [semi-automatic weapons].”
With the new partnership, Selma Police are also working to send as many cases through the federal court system as possible. Collier said the state’s revolving door is part of the problem.
“We are seeing the same violent criminals over and over again,” the chief said. “Even if it’s a homicide, sometimes we are better off to get federal gun charges than a state homicide charge.”
The Weed and Seed Board will work to determine how to allocate the funding. The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, or ADECA, is administering the grant. Collier said some of that funding will be used to bring modern technology into the department.
“We are going to use a large portion of the funding for intelligence-led policing,” the chief explained. “We have been doing old-style story-boarding. Now, we are going to be able to use databases. These are things I’ve been pushing for two years.”
The grant will expire in 18 months.