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Violent crime a ‘serious problem’ in Maddox’s Tuscaloosa

Tuscaloosa has a major violent crime problem, and reports say things are only getting worse for the city run by Mayor Walt Maddox, the Democratic nominee for governor.

As detailed by the Tuscaloosa News, for quarter one, the number of violent crime incidents investigated within the city almost doubled since last year, from 58 in 2017 to 113 this year. The biggest increase involved the number of shootings. There was an almost 300 percent increase in attempted murder cases, a doubling of felony assaults involving guns and an 80 percent jump in shootings into occupied vehicles and homes.

According to City Councilman Kip Tyner, the city’s first attempt at slowing the out-of-control crime this year – the “100 days of non-violence” initiative that asked people to solve disputes with words instead of bullets – has not been largely successful.

“The 100 days of non-violence did not go as we had hoped,” Tyner explained, per ABC 33/40.

Now, Tuscaloosa is proposing a new solution to their “serious problem” – an advertising campaign.

The proposed campaign, called the Behavior Change Initiative, will flood billboards, television, radio and social media, with a projected cost of at least $100,000. The city has agreed to pony up $50,000 already.

Another city council member, Raevan Howard, said this will be similar to anti-drug advertising campaigns that people are generally familiar with.

”My goal behind this campaign is to be able to target and help influence individuals that might be more prone to gun violence in their community and help them understand the harsh negative effects have on a community,” Howard said, per WBRC.

Tyner and Howard both emphasized that more than just the most violence-prone parts of Tuscaloosa need to be involved.

“For it to be effective, all parties have to be involved. Then you have to make sure you’re targeting the right people,” Tyner said. “It’s not going to be a cure-all by any means.”

University of Alabama professor and advertising expert Teri Henley said social media campaigns are far from a sure-thing.

“To totally change behavior with just a public service campaign, generally is not going to work,” Henley advised.

As Tuscaloosa searches for solutions, the problem itself is beginning to be widely recognized.

“You know gun violence doesn’t affect one neighborhood, or one community or one district. Gun violence in the city of Tuscaloosa affects everyone in the city. It affects individuals, families,” Howard told CBS 42.

The Tuscaloosa News, in an editorial earlier this year, noted, “We hope that the number of violent crimes this year is an outlier, but the fact is they have gone up considerably and this community can’t just assume things will get better.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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