BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - In June, 2015, The Birmingham Police Department introduced the Violent Crime Reduction Initiative. Friday, we spoke to Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper about the progress he says has been made through the program.
It started with a "call in" of 22 young men, known to be involved in violent crimes, to meet with police.
"We know our challenges are young men of color killing other young men of color. So how do we get in there and intervene and interdict to stop that
cycle of violence," Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper.
But it wasn't just police at the meeting, but the U.S. Attorney, the Jefferson County District Attorney, the Birmingham Mayor, and other social agencies.
"I think a comprehensive approach is important because there's no one factor that drives crime," said Roper. "And so environment plays a role, family
plays a role, poverty, unemployment, education -- all of that plays a role."
The call-ins have been effective, Roper said.
But already, another component has been added, something he calls custom notifications.
"There's a team of us, including me the chief, and we knock on the person's door and say, 'We're here to help you. You're on our radar and if you continue
this lifestyle, one of two things will happen: prison or death,'" Roper explained.
"And we'll talk to that person and we'll have the social services component there to say, 'We're here to help you. Call this number, 24 hours a day.
We'll help you get job skills, training, counseling. We'll help you work with these warrants, help you get education...whatever it takes to get you off the streets, we'll help you,'" he added.
The team use years of data, references from precinct officers and other processes to determine who should be involved in these notifications.
Roper admits this is not the traditional approach to law enforcement but that's what Roper wants to see in his department.
"As I've said for years, the BPD is a full spectrum police department. So we're doing things that aren't the norm. We have no problem doing the traditional things but we'll trying something new because it's all about saving lives and making a safer Birmingham," Roper said.
And Roper feels it is working. He says nearly 30 young men have accepted the challenge to take the offered help and turn their lives around.
"I think we'll see the benefit in so many ways, but we know it takes time and we didn't get in this current environment overnight so it takes time
to work our way out," Roper said.
Chief Roper stresses the call-ins and notifications are not about disrespecting the young men or talking down to them, but rather encouraging them and letting them know there is a better way out there.
He shared the story of one young men who came to a call in even when he didn't need to. The young man told him he just appreciated the way the officials spoke to him. And Roper said that young man has the potential to reach many more.