MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – After a murder surge that continued from where a bloody 2021 left off, violence has suddenly calmed down over the past three months in the Port City.
Last year saw the highest number of intentional killings in a decade, and Mobile was running one ahead of that year’s pace at the midpoint. Year to date, Mobile has had 33 homicides, down from 42 at the same point last year. Mobile Police Chief Paul Prine said the random nature of homicides makes it difficult to predict them. But he added that the department has beefed up patrols in high-crime areas and tried to address a manpower shortage.
“We can have an effect on the homicide numbers by targeting those who have the propensity to commit violent crimes in our community,” he told FOX10 News. “And so we’ve been very good at doing that.”
Prine cautioned that today’s downward trend can quickly spike again for no apparent reason. But he added that there are other encouraging trends. Year to date, armed robberies are down 26 percent compared to the same period last year. Assaults involving gunshots are down 9 percent. And shootings into cars and buildings are down 10 percent.
The city has held several community events in an effort to get the public involved and provide resources to stressed communities. It is part of Operation Echo Stopm, a comprehensive violence-prevention initiative that Prine credited with helping reduce crime.
The city this week reported that a gunshot detection system that is part of Echo Stop has alerted the police to 179 incidents of gunfire since it went live in July.
“We’ve made a few arrests; probably not as many as we would like,” he said. “However, I will tell you that the detection program, itself, is picking up, certainly, the shots, and we’re responding to those.”
Some community activists said they believe their anti-violence message is getting through.
“It’s the result of a partnership between law enforcement and our community,” said the Rev. Marvin Charles Lue Jr., the lead servant and proclaimer at Stewart Memorial CME Church on Marlin Luther King Jr. Avenue.” It’s a result of our community standing up and saying, ‘Listen, we’re going to live’ and getting more involved in the lives of our citizens and the lives of our neighbors.”
Lue, who also is community organizer for Faith in Action Alabama’s Mobile hub, offered another possible reason for the declining trend – the waning effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the anxiety and depression it caused contributed to violence.
Lue also said he believes relations between the police and the community have improved in recent years.
“There’s still a lot of work to do,” he said. “There’s still a lot of trust to build. But we do it one step at a time.”
Prine said the police rely on cooperation form the community. He said oftentimes, people are reluctant to call the police about matters they consider trivial.
“But that’s what we get paid to do,” he said. “We get paid to come our and look into things, whether there’s crime afoot or not.”
Prine said he is happy violent crime is trending in the right direction but is realistic about the possibility it will not last.
“With crime, there’s always and ebb and flow,” he said, adding that for now, “I think we’re winning and doing a good job.”
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