Dallas County DA: Gang violence ‘wreaking havoc’ on communities

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 7:30 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Law enforcement in Selma is investigating the city’s 17th homicide of the year. That is just one murder shy of the total number of homicides recorded in the city over the last two years combined.

In 2019, Selma recorded eight total homicides, and in 2020 the city recorded 10.

Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson said gang violence is a contributing factor to this year’s high homicide rate.

“Most of the shootings and murders around here this year have been gang-related,” Jackson said. “Not all of them, some of them have been domestic violence, but most of them have been gang-related.”

Jackson said the gang members they are taking off the streets are getting younger.

“These are young gang members from, let’s say, 14 on up to 25 and they are going around wreaking havoc on the community,” Jackson said.

Jackson also said that recruitment into these gangs is starting inside schools.

“I’m talking about at an early age, elementary school type recruitment and it’s an ongoing battle,” Jackson said.

Selma City Schools Superintendent Dr. Avis Williams said they have not seen any rise in gang activity during this school year, but that whatever violence is happening in the community does impact students.

“Our schools are a microcosm of our community and we have gangs in Selma, so quite naturally, there will be some of our scholars who are impacted by that,” Williams said.

“What we find is when we do have incidence at our school they most often started in the community and sometimes they are exacerbated on social media and then sometimes they do end up escalating at school,” Williams went on to say.

The gangs in Selma have spread out to other communities, too, according to Jackson.

“These Selma gangs have a lot of activity in Montgomery,” Jackson said.

He said the motivation behind the gang violence is retaliation amongst one another.

“We’ve had several murders here where they have all just interconnected,” Jackson said.

So what’s the solution? Jackson said The Gang Task Force of the Fourth Judicial Circuit has focused for nearly 20 years on reducing gang activity and associated crime in Bibb, Dallas, Hale, Perry, and Wilcox counties.

Jackson said the program has helped and recent reinforcement from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).

“They’ve come in in the last few weeks in Selma to help patrol the streets and that has really really helped on cutting down the murders,” Jackson said.

As far as inside the schools, Dr. Williams said they have several programs and resources to help students who need guidance and mentorship.

“The bottom line is building relationships the best thing that we can do to counter some of the trauma and the violence that our scholars deal with in their homes. We try to set up an environment where our scholars have trusted adults that they know they can come and talk to in the event that they do have something that they are worried about, whether it’s a fight or something happening at home,” Williams said.

According to ADECA, The 4th Judicial Circuit was awarded over $93,000 for fiscal 2021 to help combat crime. This year, the circuit also received over $12,000 grant through the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods program. That grant is being used to pay overtime for officers serving in the Gang Task Force.

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