‘68 was too high’: Montgomery police chief addresses 2020 homicide rate

Montgomery police chief addresses crime rate

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - In alignment with other large cities across the United States, the city of Montgomery saw a large spike in homicides in the year 2020.

The Montgomery Police Department investigated 68 total homicides in Montgomery in 2020. That was up by 26 cases from the previous year when MPD worked 42 homicides.

“It’s entirely too high of a number,” said Montgomery Police Chief Ernest Finley. “I think one is too high, but 68 was too high.”

Finley said the majority of the homicides were the result of relational issues within the home, with most cases ending in deadly gunfire.

“It comes to relationships and disputes and how we control our anger and how we deal with de-escalation of situations,” Finley said.

A spike in homicides happened across the country in 2020. A newly released report from the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice found homicides increased by 30% on average across 34 American cities. This came as the U.S. dealt with the coronavirus pandemic and widespread protests against police brutality.

The report also found, however, that the magnitude of this increase remains well below historical highs. In 2020, the homicide rate was 11.4 deaths per 100,000 residents in sample cities; 25 years earlier, in 1995, the rate was 19.4 per 100,000 residents.

So far in 2021, Montgomery is investigating 12 homicides, an increase from the nine reported this same time last year.

Finley said a decrease in homicides will boil down to community policing, conflict resolution and keeping an eye out for those you come in contact with. He said the best thing you can do is call law enforcement if you or someone you know is in a crisis situation.

“We’d rather get that call now and we can send our services over there and maybe our advocacy group, maybe our crisis intervention team, maybe somebody that are trained to defuse a situation, to de-escalate a situation, we can do that, you got to call us, you got to believe in us,” Finley said.

Finley also said it’s going to take more than just law enforcement to assist.

“We need more partnerships, we need more families and communities and churches to really kind of help us out, to be those eyes and ears,” Finley said.

Out of the 12 homicides the city has seen so far in 2021, 11 arrests have been made. MPD said they ended 2020 with a solvability rate of 74%, meaning 50 out of the 68 cases were solved. According to Finley, that is above the national average.

“I think that is what’s working is a team effort,” Finley said. “Sending addition personnel to our assaults and our shootings, I think it makes a difference.”

Finley said MPD will continue to be visible and proactive in the community while conducting relentless follow-ups.

“The numbers are high, but with our homicide task force and our partnerships that we do have, we do relentless follow-ups, and it’s always a team of professional men and women that are going to grind and go get their man or woman responsible for that heinous act and they are doing a great job,” Finley said. “But it’s when we get that call, we want to prevent that call. That’s when ownership comes in through these communities, through these families.”

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