Birmingham city councilman suggests calling in National Guard to combat crime; Mayor Woodfin disagrees
Birmingham City Councilor Steven Hoyt wants the National Guard to be considered as an option to combat violent crime in the Magic City.
Outlets reported that Hoyt made comments during a Tuesday city council meeting expressing his grave concern over community safety, especially related to gun violence and homicides.
While Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith has made changes during his approximately one-year tenure thus far, Hoyt said current policing strategies still aren’t “working.”
Speaking after a weekend of violence left five dead in the metro-area, he suggested, “[M]aybe we need to call the National Guard in here to help us control this city.”
Watch, via WVTM:
According to Alabama Media Group, this came immediately after Hoyt stated, “Growing up, my mother told me if you don’t know how to do something, ask somebody. Get some help. If the governor can’t get things in order, she calls the president.”
To be clear, the governor does not currently play a role in the policing of Birmingham or Jefferson County. The governor does have the power to order the Alabama National Guard to “State Active Duty” during certain crises, including natural disasters and incidents of dangerous civil unrest, although it appears that Hoyt was suggesting President Donald Trump federalize the state’s National Guard and order them into the city as a form of martial law, rather than Governor Kay Ivey utilizing her authority.
However, Mayor Randall Woodfin during the meeting immediately rose to rebut Hoyt’s suggestion, stating bluntly, “We will not be calling the National Guard.”
The mayor emphasized that recent violent crimes, specifically mentioning the weekend murders in Belview Heights, were personal in nature as opposed to “random killings.”
Hoyt responded by saying people are still scared, whether most of the violence is random or not.
“That’s not life. That’s not quality of life,” he lamented. “I should be able to go to my house. My wife should be able to go to our house and all this without fear. Terror is something that’s real.”
As of Tuesday evening, Jefferson County has seen 83 homicides so far this year, 55 of those occurring in the city of Birmingham.
The city had experienced 47 homicides at this same point last year. Ultimately, Birmingham ended 2018 with 107 homicides, which was down slightly from 111 the year prior. Yet, last year was still one of the deadliest years in Birmingham’s recent history.
Smith said that the city’s police force has taken over 1,000 guns off the street since he became police chief in late June of 2018.
He stressed his confidence in the city’s strategy and that the results will ultimately bear him out, adding that there is “no magic wand” to make crime disappear overnight.
“It just takes good hard police work, and that we’re committed to doing,” Smith added.
The entirety of Tuesday’s city council meeting is available to watch here.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn