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Faith in Action ‘Peacemakers’ asking city to redirect $1.5 million from police department to anti-gun violence campaign, social services

Published: Jun. 12, 2020 at 10:49 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Faith in Action Peacemakers campaign is asking Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and city council to redirect $1.5 million from the police department’s budget to things like anti-gun violence initiatives and programs to help people dealing with mental health issues to even homeless.

"Those who are suffering from social ills that are found in the community, they’re currently being dealt with by law enforcement and those law enforcement officers aren’t necessarily equipped to properly deal with those issues,” Onoyemi Williams, with Faith in Action said.

When it comes to anti-gun violence strategies, the peacemakers would like to see a community leadership team made up advocates, social service providers and city officials. The money would also be invested in hiring and training a street outreach team to work with people involved in the cycle of gun violence who are not in law enforcement custody.

Williams wants to see the money directed to help solve the problems, not just the symptoms.

"There was a point in time in our community that these services we’re prevalent. However what has happened over the years is the funds have been soaked up into the criminal justice system which is left these services no longer funded,” Williams added.

Just this week, Deputy Chief Darnell Davenport says BPD needs to have access to some of the social services in order to get people the help they need. We know the department is currently under a 30-day review by the mayor so some of this could be addressed sooner rather than later.

The Birmingham Peacemakers group posted a list of things on Facebook they would like to see the money go towards:

Faith in Action Alabama's Peacemaker's Campaign is calling on Mayor Woodfin and the Birmingham City Council to earmark $1.5 million for fiscal year 2021 to support anti-gun violence street outreach strategies that have reduced by gun violence 40%-60%. The Peacemaker Campaign also calls on the city to make a five-year commitment to this strategy.

These funds should be diverted from dollars currently proposed for the Birmingham Police Department (BPD) budget for Fiscal Year 2021. Currently $92 million is allocated for the BPD in Fiscal Year 2021 from the City of Birmingham. This amount is not inclusive of the funding that BPD receives from state, federal or grant sources.

The Peacemaker Campaign calls on Birmingham elected officials to support the plan that they have been presented with, that has been adapted for Birmingham based on the national models of Cure Violence and Advance Peace. Policing will not lead to a dramatic reduction of crime in any community, only the intentional investment in the people of the community. Properly trained and supported street outreach workers can help stop the spilling of blood in our streets due gun violence. This is not about the government giving a handout to the community, but the meaningful return of tax dollars back to the community.

Key components of the Peacemaker Anti-Gun Violence Outreach Stratagy include:

**The anti-gun violence strategy would be overseen by a community leadership team, consisting of community advocates, key social service providers, and key city officials. This strategy would complement the city's existing existing re-eentry and gun violence prevention programs.

**The dollars would be invested in the hiring and training street outreach workers to engage individuals involved in a cycle of gun violence who are not in law enforcement custody.

**Street outreach program will have access to national technical assistance networks to help ensure the program is being properly implemented for maximum benefit to the community.

**The community based support agencies associated with providing wrap around services will be reflective of the community and have a proven track record of providing said services in the community.

**The community has a strategy. Now we need a commitment from the officials we have elected to earmark $1.5 million in fiscal year 2021 and make a 5-year commitment in order to reduce Birmingham’s gun violence crisis.

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