Town Hall held to address concerns over violent crime in Montgomery
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A Town Hall was held Wednesday night at Resurrection Auditorium in Montgomery to address the issue of crime in the city.
The Town Hall was spearheaded by newly elected District 3 City Councilwoman Marche Johnson. It was specifically held for the Sheridan Heights, Brookview, and Park Manor neighborhoods, but everyone in the city was welcome.
Speakers included Councilwomen Marche Johnson, Mayor Steven Reed, Montgomery County Commissioner Isaiah Sankey, State Senator Kirk Hatcher, and others.
Emotions ran high at the Town Hall. People in attendance were angry, frustrated, and fed up with the violent crime happening in the city.
Amongst those in the crowd was the family of 19-year-old Keiana Johnson, who was shot and killed in the Sheridan Heights community last Thursday. The outcry of Keiana’s mother could be heard echoing through the auditorium when the floor opened up for community members to speak.
“It’s just ridiculous. Something has to be done,” said Mother Kisha Johnson. “They really need to do something. She was only 19. She wasn’t a bad kid; everybody loved her. She was the life of the party. I am still in shock.”
The family’s biggest question is how someone can commit murder and already be back out on the street. Jef’Daysha Woods, 20, who was charged for the murder of Johnson, has bonded out. Her bond was set at $150,000, according to the affidavit.
“My niece is in the morgue, and you’re out walking,” said Johnson’s aunt Christyn Fluellen. “You killed someone innocently, and your bond was $150,000, and you out, and you said you didn’t even sit in the county jail for four hours? That’s an insult to my family.”
Keiana’s family was not the only ones in the community searching for answers. The crowd of people who attended the Town Hall expressed their frustrations over the recent increase in violent crime.
“Enough is enough. Respect, that’s what we’re lacking,” said one woman.
“Where are the trouble makers at, and where are their parents at?” said one man referring to those in attendance.
Community members are not the only ones frustrated though, city and state officials are too.
“Enough is enough,” said Senator Kirk Hatcher. “We don’t have the answers. We have some models and some things, but we’ve got to work as a community to do this, because otherwise individuals, many of which who do not live in this community, will take it over.”
Montgomery Police Chief Ernest Finley said officers would continue to monitor problem areas in the city, but it’s also the community’s job to keep an eye on each other.
“We’ve got to educate these individuals in our community to do better,” Finley said.
“We have to, as parents, as adults, we have to monitor our young folks, and if they still live in your household under 25, you’ve got to monitor them,” Finley said. “You got to monitor the social media; you’ve got to check them because if their head is not together before they step out, you might not see them again.”
Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham addressed the concern over not holding those responsible for committing violent crimes to high enough punishment.
“How can people commit these crimes and come back out on the street?” Cunningham said. “Y’all ain’t getting upset?” He asked the crowd.
“The same way we be out here today is the same way we need to be at that courthouse. We need to be standing there when they talk about reducing somebody’s bond to put them back on the street.”
“If we don’t start getting tough on these individuals and make individuals know that if you shoot while commission of a crime, you’re going to do the time. That’s called a consequence.” Cunningham said.
Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said the city is working to find solutions.
“We will make sure that this city is a safer city. That this city is better maintained and whatever it costs in order to get that, then that’s what we’re going to do,” Reed said.
One suggestion made by Reed was to set up an “office of violence prevention potentially.”
“That would be an office that is solely dedicated to preventing, not responding, not reacting to violence in this city,” Reed said. “That is something that we have seen models of in Camden, New Jersey, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Oakland, California, to other cities.”
“We are gathering our information to present that to the council in a more formalized manner by the time we get to budget season,” Reed when on to say.
Incidents of gun violence seem to be on the increase nationwide and in Montgomery.
There have 34 homicides so far this year in the city. That is 10 more than this time last year and 14 more than this time in 2019.
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