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Mayor Woodfin launches pilot safety initiative to create safer streets

Safe Streets is a strategic safety initiative that will limit the number of entry and exit points within a certain perimeter.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin announcing the Safe Streets pilot.
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At night, Brenda Jones, a 71-year-old retired East Lake resident, likes to watch “The Andy Griffith Show.” Her escape to the idyllic town of Mayberry is often abruptly interrupted, however, by the loud, popping sound of gunshots. 

“Get down,” she yells to her family and throws herself unto the ground. “Cover your heads!”  

While her face is smashed against the floor, she mumbles a prayer that bullets from the automatic weapons a few feet away won’t penetrate her walls.  

“It’s not right,” she said. “When you are older you want to live a quiet and peaceful life.” 

The scene is common for the 38-year resident. She has watched the decline of her community over the years: the growing drug activity, prostitution, roaming stray dogs, and gunshots—always gunshots. But when she learned about a new safety initiative being launched in her neighborhood, she rejoiced. 

Beginning July 8, the City of Birmingham will launch a pilot program with a mission to create a safer, cleaner community for residents in the East Lake neighborhood.

Safe Streets is a strategic safety initiative that will limit the number of entry and exit points within a certain perimeter of homes, schools, and businesses as well as add several traffic calming measures at intersections and institute concerted blight removal efforts. East Lake was selected for this pilot because of the concerning number of crimes in the area. 

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“It is not just about keeping crime out,” said Mayor Randall L. Woodfin. “In addition to decreasing crime, in addition to reducing the day walkers and prostitution, in addition to cleaning up the alleys, drying out the trap houses and dope houses, we also want to seed in hope. These residents deserve to live in peace, to freely walk their sidewalks, and allow their children to go outside to play.” 

Under this pilot, there will be a multi-pronged focus on cinching up gaps in safety. Because of the many entry and exit points in the area, the neighborhood of senior citizens and young families have been vulnerable to perpetrators who can come in and commit crimes with multiple escape ways. Barriers will be set up to cradle in the residents and create a shield against those who try to invade their community. Installing traffic calming efforts such as speed bumps and signs are intended to deter speeding vehicles and drive-by shootings. Alleyways that allow perpetrators easy access into the back of homes will be secured. Abandoned properties that have been a breeding ground for criminal activities have been earmarked and will be aggressively addressed. 

This data-informed effort follows a trend of other cities across the country, many of whom have found success in crime reduction. The neighborhood’s perimeter will include streets and homes within the stretch of Division Avenue, Oporto Madrid, Higdon Road and 68th Street South. The pilot will begin in East Lake with plans to expand across the city. 

In preparation for the pilot, months of advance communication and conversations were had with the residents within the identified perimeter. In April, Mayor Woodfin and his staff began knocking on doors and surveying their thoughts on the plan.  

More than 800 homes were visited as well as five churches and several businesses. There were 350 residents responding to a survey with nearly 90 percent of them supporting the effort. The group visited each of the homes in the perimeter three different times and handed out more than a thousand pieces of information. Mayor Woodfin presented the plan at East Lake neighborhood association meetings and also hosted a special town hall at New Rising Star Church.  

The timeline for the rollout will include the following: 

  • June 27-July 5: Barriers will be deployed to designated areas and prepped for staging. Two visual artists who live within the East Lake perimeter were commissioned to create an artistic design that will cover them. City workers and members of Mayor Woodfin’s
  • team helped to paint them. 
  • Beginning July 8: Barriers will be positioned in the streets and closures will begin. This could take several days. Temporary safety barriers will be placed in front of the painted ones for two weeks. 
  • Late July: The temporary safety barriers will be removed, and greenery added for beautification. 
  • October: The pilot program will be evaluated to determine next steps. 

For more information about Safe Streets, go to www.birminghamal.gov/safestreets. Watch Mayor Woodfin’s announcement here.

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The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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