BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham's mayor, the city council, the police chief and a Jefferson County commissioner were among those gathered Monday to vow a new direction in dealing with the city's violence which has claimed two teenagers in recent weeks.
"Their deaths were the match that lit the flames of discussion to curtail the violence," Birmingham City Councilman Jay Roberson said. "The youth pulling the triggers you have cried out for help loud enough to get a response. It is my belief every time a youth pulls a trigger it is a cry for help. It is time we start listening to all those cries."
Roberson announced a series of small group discussions to be held in March with former and current gang members and residents. He said the meetings would focus on what is driving the violence and why some see violence as the only option.
"Based on what we learn we will draft a plan of action to be carried out over a 100-day period," Roberson said.
Roberson said leaders will be sought within the community so serve as mentors for those at-risk of committing violence or being a victim of violence.
Police Chief A.C. Roper said he would welcome the support.
"We have relied on police too much as a stand-alone entity," Roper said. "We welcome the help."
Roper praised a description of the new effort as "unorthodox," saying an unorthodox strategy is needed.
"We're fighting an uphill battle against culture, against social media and the images and the music they see every day," Roper said.
"Police do a good job of finding the people after the fact," Mayor William Bell said. "We have to find ways to interdict ahead of the time."
Mayor Bell also cited a problem in the number of illegal guns in the city.
He said he would coordinate with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Drug Enforcement Agency to identify ways to reduce the number of illegal guns and drugs on the streets.
Chief Roper said more effort must be made to promote responsible gun ownership. Roper said theft reports too often include unsecured firearms stolen in car break-ins which, he said, only adds more guns to the streets.