Homicides up by 1 in Mobile as 2022 reaches midway mark
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - The city hit a decade-long high in homicides last years, and the bloody pace continued to the halfway mark of 2022.
But Mobile Police Chief Paul Prine told FOX10 News that the city is making progress, evidenced by a 3 percent decline in the overall violent crime rate compared with the first six months of last year.
“That’s really significant,” he said. “It may not seem like it is, but it really is significant considering, you know, the Mobile Police Department is 70 officers down and we’ve seen a huge increase in violent crimes – as much as double digits, comparatively, with the other cities the size of Mobile.”
Mobile, including its police jurisdiction outside the city limits, has recorded 27 intentional homicides so far this year – one more than the previous year at the same point. The city had 51 all of last year.
“Our hope is that we’re able to reduce, certainly, the homicides,” he said. “I think what’s important to know is although we’re up one compared to this time last year overall, we are trending down in violent crime.”
In addition to the decline in overall violent crime, robberies have dropped by 25 percent compared with the first half of 2021. Aggravated assaults are up 4 percent, but the chief noted that the figure includes domestic violence – which the police have very little ability to prevent – and attacks with other weapons.
Looking just at street violence, assaults with guns are down 8.25 percent, Prine said.
Despite running about 15 percent down from Mobile’s budgeted police force of 491, the chief said the department has surged resources to crime hot spots. But, he added, murders are the hardest crimes to prevent.
“Homicides are unique in that there’s really not a whole lot the Police Department can do to reduce homicides,” he said. “And I say that because in order for us to predict where the next homicide is going to be, we have to have a lot of information to include who the offenders are.”
Prine said most homicides are not random events. The killer and victim almost always know each other, he said. Public safety officials this week attributed much of the violence to gang rivalries.
Still, Prine acknowledged, highly public shootings – such as a broad-daylight attack in March that killed two teenagers in a car at the intersection of Cottage Hill and Azalea roads – can put innocent people in harm’s way. Police recently made an arrest in that chase, charging 21-year-old Kourtlen Parker with murder in the deaths of the driver, 19-year-old Cameron Montgomery and his 16-year-old passenger, Ja’Kobi Freeman.
Montgomery’s mother, Shaquita Montgomery, said she believes more arrests are coming.
“I’ll be glad when I get all the arrests, who all was involved with Cameron and Ja’Kobi’s murder,” she said. “I’ll be glad play when I really get justice, and I know everybody is arrested, so I can have more peace.”
The Rev. David Edwards, president of People United to Advance the Dream Mobile, said there is only so much law enforcement can do. He called for stricter gun control and a crackdown on violent music.
“This music that our young people are listening to – this music is crazy,” he said. “It teaches them violence, and they are constantly listening to it over and over, and their mindsets are beginning to want to mimic this violent music that they’re listening to.”
Edwards, who also is pastor of Reconciling Lives to the Kingdom of Church Ministries, said the community also must step up support for the poor to help prevent teens in vulnerable families from turning to crime. He said his church, on St. Stephens Road, will host a community outreach program on July 23 with free backpacks for kids, health screenings and giveaways of food and clothing.
“This gun violence is not just one particular thing,” he said. “There are many contributors to this gun violence, and we must attack it one at a time. You can’t eat the whole elephant. You got to eat it a piece at a time.”
Mobile police have been on an arrest spree the last few weeks, including charging six people in the death of a 14-year-old boy on Cheshire Drive in February. Prine said the department has made arrests in 78 percent of homicides so far this. That’s well above the national average, which fell to a 50-year low of about 50 percent in 2020.
“We are getting more tips in the way from community involvement, but it’s also just outstanding police work,” he said.
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