Mobile so far this year: 163 guns stolen from cars; 176 ‘youthful’ gun offenders

Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 6:10 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - The city’s 23 homicides so far this year put it on a pace to exceed last year’s total. A deeper look reveals numbers that public safety officials say may be even more alarming.

So far this year, according to the Mobile Police Department, officers have recovered 76 illegal firearms – including guns stolen from inside and outside the city.

Police say 163 guns have been reported stolen from vehicles.

Sgt. John Young, a police spokesman who earlier this week delivered an emotional broadside against black-on-black violence, told FOX10 News on Friday that many of those stolen guns end up in the wrong hands. He said year to date, 35 gun crimes have been committed by people younger than 18. Another 141 have been committed by “youthful” offenders, those age 19 to 25.

“Consider this: The numbers I just gave you is 27 weapons stolen per month. … On average, there are five crimes committed by juveniles per month,” he said. “When you start looking at the numbers like that, it’s sobering. It puts it into perspective.”

The intersection of guns and youth came into sharp and tragic focus this week. Two children, ages 11 and 14, died from gunshots on back-to-back days. The three people charged with murder in their deaths all are teenagers, themselves.

Young says he supports people’s constitutional right to have weapons but urges them to keep those firearms secured.

“Literally, the majority of these crimes are just pulling on door handles, and not only firearms, but purse, purses, are being stolen. cash is being stolen,” he said. “It’s simpler – remove all valuables, valuables from the vehicle – not only at Christmastime. All year-round, and secure your vehicles.”

James Barber, Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s chief of staff and a former police chief and public safety director, told FOX10 News that thefts from cars are an ongoing problem. Whatever the official statistic, he said, “you can probably double that” because many people never report the thefts. And about half of the people who do report them, he added, do not know the weapons’ serial numbers.

Barber said many people who live in low-crime neighborhoods get complacent. Oftentimes, he said, people will keep a handgun in the glovebox and not realize for weeks or months that it is missing.

“And they’ve got the nicest guns,” he said.

Barber said the city may revive the “Lock it Up” campaign of public service announcements that law enforcement officials in June 2019 credited with a 40 percent reduction in gun thefts.

Young said the dangers posed by the 163 guns stolen from vehicles so far this year pose an obvious threat.

“We cut that number in half, who knows how many assaults and homicides we could prevent,” he said. “If we eliminate it totally, I know we’re looking at a safer Mobile.”

Joshua Jones, Mobile’s new youth violence prevention coordinator, got emotional on Friday talking about the shooting deaths this week of 11-year-old LeQuinten Morrissette and 14-year-old Ciara Jackson.

“Excuse me, but it’s heavy,” he said. “LeQuinten, Ciara – I couldn’t imagine being those parents. I couldn’t imagine being I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine what they’re going through.”

The challenge for Jones is reaching the youth most in danger of slipping into violence. He is planning a series of “community days” that will bring more than two dozen agencies to the neighborhoods most in need. These are things like employment services and mental health counseling.

“You’re not gonna get that shooter – right? – unless you get that heart,” he said. “And the only way that we’re gonna change these hearts is we have to be genuine, we have to be consistent, and we have to be intentional.”

The first event will be on June 9 at Baumhauer-Randle Park on Duval Street, not far from where LeQuinton was killed. Turning a teenager away from violence, Jones said, requires reaching the entire family.

Other events will be held at Azalea Pointe Apartments on June 23 and Figures Park on July 14. Jones said he is planning a youth violence prevention event from July 24 to July 29.


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