Montgomery crime talks highlight initiatives, stats - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Montgomery crime talks highlight initiatives, stats

(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Crime has been the big talker in Montgomery, as has been the need for public involvement.

Mayor Todd Strange and Montgomery police officials say the community must do a better job of alerting and helping the police. He also pointed to lower crime statistics in the Capital City, but the numbers can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

The mayor says violent crime was down in September this year, compared to the same month last year.

“The perception is that crime runs rampant but the reality is, we are lower today than we were this time last month or this time last year,” he said during his weekly briefing Thursday morning.

Violent crime was down 12.4 percent and all crime was down 11.6 percent in September compared to the same month last year, Strange said, citing the most recent crime statistics.

However, a year-to-date comparison provided by MPD shows violent crime has increased 17.21 percent this year and overall crime has increased 2.38 percent this year.

“If you say you're manipulating the numbers, we'll tell you that ALEA audits and we're going to do a third party independent audit to make sure we're doing it the right way because we have to have confidence in the numbers we've got,” Strange added.

The mayor also voiced his frustrations over a weekend shooting.

Just after midnight Sunday, shots rang in the 1800 block of the Eastern Boulevard. One man suffered life-threatening injuries, according to Capt. Regina Duckett with the Montgomery Police Department.  

Video surfaced on social media showing a crowd of people standing outside the RaceWay gas station at the intersection of Eastern Boulevard and Carmichael Road before gunfire erupts. Another video shows a victim on the ground, bleeding. 

When asked about the videos, MPD said they could not authenticate them, but the videos are being investigated.

The mayor has slammed management at the RaceWay for not calling 911.

“Why does not the security guard that's on duty there or the management, when they see something's going to happen or they see 40 or 50 teens gathered around, why don't they call us?” Strange asked.

The owner of the gas station fired back on Friday and said his security guard did call 911 as soon as someone knocked on the window of the convenience store and notified him that people were outside with guns. He rushed to help the victim with CPR.

As for the victim, his condition is stable. No arrests have been made at this time.

Strange says the city has put new initiatives in place in recent months to tackle crime. A gun reward program has taken more than 100 weapons off the street, many of which were illegal, he indicated.

He says Montgomery needs more police officers.

“In our budget this year, the city can handle 530 officers, plus an additional 15,” the mayor stated.

He says the city is ready to implement the municipal auxiliary police force.

“People that are A post certified that have retired from Montgomery or any other state law enforcement organization. As long as they're certified, I have the authority as mayor under the statues of the state of Alabama to form a posse if you will. It's a sheriff's posse,” Strange explained.

“They're not going to be the front line law enforcement but they could be the second ride along, parades, and big events. This is going to be a force multiplier for us,” he added.

The city is offering recruiting bonuses and he revealed there's also going to be retention bonuses to keep officers on the force.

Chief Ernest Finley says a two way street is necessary between the community and law enforcement.

“If you don't call and you just want to put it on social media as opposed to calling us right then when things are happening, we're going to have some issued and we're going to be behind the eight ball. We want to be the tip of the spear. We want to be in front of things to really make things happen,” he said.

Major Scott Tatum, commander over the criminal investigative division and special operation, says MPD has a 72 percent clearance rate on homicides. The national average is just under 60 percent.

“There's 208,000 in Montgomery and if everybody does their part, it helps us do our job,” he said. “When we're out here and we're on these scenes and we're asking questions, we understand it may not be right then that you can answer them but call us later.”

Chief of Operations John Bowman says the “Park, Walk & Talk” program continues to build strong connections between the department and citizens and stressed the “see something, say something” practice.

He also discussed how the department is tackling problem areas.

“We have a hot spot map. We have daily crime reports and maps galore," he said. "It's almost like the fire department when we see a hot spot, we want to see it go out. We do that by pouring resources into it through traffic, burglary reduction teams, the SWAT team." 

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