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‘Whole of law enforcement’ said needed to combat violent crime in Birmingham

After a deadly Labor Day weekend of violent crime in Birmingham, Mayor Randall Woodfin said on a Facebook post that gangs need to “chill and put the guns down.”

This is just the latest example of a spike in violent crime that local officials are having a hard to getting a handle on in the Yellowhammer State.

Former U.S. Attorney Jay Town joined Friday’s edition of WVNN’s “The Yaffee Program,” and discussed some ways law enforcement can combat the crime problem in Birmingham.

“One way perhaps to abate against the levels of violence that we are seeing in Birmingham, right now, is to engage in a whole of law enforcement approach,” Town said, “where it’s not just BPD or the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office that are out policing these violent criminals. But you’re using a gathering of all of the crime intelligence that is had by the ATF, the FBI, the DEA, the attorney general’s office, ALEA, and even the Jefferson County’s DA office and surrounding counties. These people are not bound by any restrictions of city limits and certain county lines.”

The former U.S. Attorney said it’s mostly a gang problem that’s causing the spike in crime in the city.

“These gang members in Birmingham are increasingly violent,” he said. “Whether the middle of the day or the middle of the night, it doesn’t matter much to them. Doesn’t matter if it’s a four-year-old in the background or three people sitting in a car and they only want one of them. They will click off and open fire.”

Town suggested some of these criminals need to be charged in federal court, which will enforce tougher penalties.

“You really have to get into sort of a broken windows type mentality,” he said, “where you have a guy who’s suspected of killing someone, let’s say, but the best you can put on him is a felon in possession of a firearm. Well, under Alabama law, that individual is going to get probation unless they have eight prior felony convictions, if they don’t just get a misdemeanor and fine and move on down the line … when you take that same case and remove it to federal court … they’re going to get three to ten years in federal prison where there is no sanctuary of parole. That’s one of the things we did very well when I was U.S. Attorney.”

He also said there will be a stronger effort soon by local leaders to put these gang members behind bars where they belong.

“I do expect that you’ll see from Mayor Woodfin they’ll be task forces formed,” he said, “or if they are already formed, you’ll start to see them become more active. They’ll start to police with a scalpel, not with a blunt instrument, not waiting for 911 to ring, but out there proactively policing and surging resources.”

In a separate statement to Yellowhammer News, Town said Woodfin has a tough job ahead of him in trying to deal with the ongoing crime problem in his city.

“Woodfin’s pleas to the community are a responsible tactic,” he said, “but a significant reduction in violent crime necessitates handcuff and prison beds.”

Yaffee is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts “The Yaffee Program” Weekdays 9-11 a.m. on WVNN. You can follow him on Twitter @Yaffee

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