Birmingham residents raise concerns over federal anti-crime initiative

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The federal government wants to help Birmingham fight violent crime, but people who live in the Magic City have questions about the plans.

Last month, the United States Department of Justice created the National Public Safety Partnership in an effort to combat violent crime.

The initiative aims to create a federal partnership with local law enforcement in 12 U.S. cities with above-average crime rates.

Those cities are Birmingham, Alabama; Indianapolis, Indiana; Memphis, Tennessee; Toledo, Ohio; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Buffalo, New York; Cincinnati, Ohio; Houston, Texas; Jackson, Tennessee; Kansas City, Missouri; Lansing, Michigan and Springfield, Illinois.

Eric Hall, the neighborhood president of Birmingham’s Pratt City community, called a meeting Monday to discuss concerns over the partnership.

Martez Files, a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and part of Black Lives Matter, raised concerns that federal involvement in local issues could lead to over-incarceration in poor and minority communities, and make matters worse.

“I’m someone who’s a student of history, and I’m someone who knows that federal intervention in communities of color has never been good for us,” Files said. “I just think we need to solve problems on the inside, and I think we have talented folks, skillful folks, in the community who can do that.”

Several solutions to combat crime were discussed Monday, including investments in education, housing and employment opportunities.

“I think (the Justice Department) needs to know that we are concerned about the crime in the City of Birmingham, and the State of Alabama,” said Sheila Tyson, the city councilor for Birmingham’s 6th district. “We are willing to work with them and do everything we can within our own communities in order to stop all the crime and the violence.”

Danny Carr, the district attorney for Jefferson County, pointed out that the Justice Department hasn’t yet made its specific plans clear for how it wants to get involved in Birmingham.

“I think it’s putting the cart before the horse,” Carr said. “We’re not sure at this point, but I think more than anything if they’re coming in to provide assistance… I think it could be a much-needed help for us here in Birmingham.”

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