Montgomery leaders discuss city-wide crime prevention efforts

Montgomery leaders discuss city-wide crime prevention efforts
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - With summer in full swing, Montgomery Police Chief Earnest Finley said it is not uncommon for MPD to see a slightly higher call volume.

"We are kind of steady," Finley said. "There is a slight increase. Crime is season, at times. We don't like to acknowledge that, but it is. When there is a lot of idle times in these communities, that's what we're seeing."

Finley said this is the time of year when the department sees a lot of property crimes committed.

"We're dealing with the shoplifters, Finley said. "We're dealing with breaking into vehicles and stolen vehicles."

In the earlier part of the season, he said MPD was seeing many cases of stolen lawn equipment. Like with other types of crime, Finley said MPD's initial focus is on prevention.

"We are sending out officers out to these businesses to educate them about how to prevent shoplifting and to work crews to help them protect their belongings," Finley said.

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said the city's crime is, as Finley said, consistent with last year's numbers. However, he said there are issues when it comes to crimes like aggravated assaults, domestic violence and crimes committed by youth.

"Our goal is to have less crime this year than we did last year," Strange said.

In May, the mayor announced his decision to start a task force to address youth crime in Montgomery. At the head of that task force is Colonel John Richardson, who serves as chairman. According to Richardson, the group began meeting on June 1, with the intention to meet every two weeks. However, recent crimes in the city created a more immediate need.
 
"The mayor originally asked us to research long-time solutions to crime issues," Richardson. "Now, we meet on an as-necessary basis, and we are coming up with tangible solutions that can be implemented right now. Later on, we will be able to go back and focus on long-term sustainable plans."
 
Richardson, himself, has spent more than 30 years in law enforcement, serving at the local, state and federal level. Most recently, he retired from his position as the director of the State Department of Public Safety. In his span in the field, he said the biggest shift he's seen in crime is from offenses being predominantly committed by adult males to more crimes being committed by younger people and more women and girls.

"We have a really good, effective team of people working on this," Richardson said. "The biggest thing we realized is that Montgomery already has a number of good resources that already exist here to keep kids off the streets."

Richardson said groups like the Boys & Girls Club, Common Ground Montgomery and the YMCA are not only great resources but they offer many scholarship opportunities, if money is an issue. He said there is a communication gap between these resources and the communities that need them.

"We are working with the police department and going into these communities to let them know we are there for them and that they have options," Richardson said.

Finley said his officers intentionally seek out communities to "adopt" by planning days to go into them and network.

"It's about relationships," Finley said. "We need them all to know we are here for them and they can come to us."

The neighborhoods Finley and Richardson said the task force and MPD will be highlighting are Ridgecrest, Chisolm, Gibbs Village, Regency Park, Smiley Court, the Virginia Loop area and the Calmar Drive area. While there are projects scheduled, like outreach in the Chisolm community on Aug. 19, Richardson said the group will go to any community that requests the support.

He and Finley said it takes support from the entire Montgomery community to make effective change and improvement.

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