MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – After a wave of murders that picked up where a bloody 2021 left off, violence in the port city has suddenly calmed down over the past three months.
Last year saw the highest number of premeditated killings in a decade, and at midpoint Mobile was a step ahead of the year’s pace. There have been 33 homicides in Mobile so far this year, up from 42 at the same time last year. Mobile Police Chief Paul Prine said the random nature of homicides makes them difficult to predict. But he added that the department has been stepping up patrols in high-crime areas and trying to fill a manpower shortage.
“We can have an impact on homicide numbers by targeting those who are prone to violent crime in our community,” he told FOX10 News. “And we managed that very well.”
Prine warned that today’s downtrend can quickly rebound for no apparent reason. But he added that there are other encouraging trends. Year-to-date, armed robberies are down 26 percent from the same period last year. Attacks with shots decreased by 9 percent. And shooting at cars and buildings is down 10 percent.
The city has held several community events to engage the public and provide resources to stressed communities. It is part of Operation Echo Stopm, a broader violence prevention initiative that Prine has credited with helping reduce crime.
The city reported this week that a gunshot detection system, part of Echo Stop, has alerted police to 179 incidents of gunshots since it went live in July.
“We 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 certainly picking up the shots and we are responding to that.”
Some community activists said they believe their anti-violence message is getting through.
“It is the result of a partnership between law enforcement and our community,” said Rev. Marvin Charles Lue Jr., the senior minister and proclaimer of Stewart Memorial CME Church on Marlin Luther King Jr. Avenue. “It is the result of for our community to stand up and say, ‘Listen, we’re going to live’ and get more involved in the lives of our citizens and the lives of our neighbors.”
Lue, who is also a community organizer for the Faith in Action Alabama mobile hub, cited another possible reason for the declining trend — the waning impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the anxiety and depression it caused contributed to the violence.
Lue also said he believes police-community relations have improved in recent years.
“There’s still a lot to do,” he said. “There is still a lot of trust to be built. But we do it step by step.”
Prine said police rely on community collaboration. He said people are often reluctant to call the police on matters they consider trivial.
“But that’s what we get paid for,” he said. “We get paid to come and look at things, whether there’s crime or not.”
Prine said he’s glad violent crime is trending in the right direction, but realistic that the possibility won’t last.
“There’s always an ebb and flow in crime,” he said, adding, “I think we’re winning and we’re doing a good job.”
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