The number of homicides in Alabama has crept up by 5 percent in the last year, according to the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center.
Our Birmingham defense attorneys understand that the figures compare 2012 to 2011. Overall, violent crimes inched upward by 3 percent, while the number of property crimes declined by about 6 percent.
Where there had been 311 homicides throughout the state in 2011, there were 325 in 2012. It marks a nearly 28 percent increase since 2010, when 255 murders were reported statewide.
In some areas of the state, media reports indicate the number of homicides is already higher so far this year than in all of last year.
Aggravated assaults too are up, with nearly 13,700 reported in 2011, versus almost 14,500 in 2012 – a nearly 6 percent increase.
The big question for many communities is: Why?
There are no simple answers, but some of it may have to do with the still-struggling economy in many parts of Alabama. One might think this would primarily impact property crime numbers. But then we start to delve into the motive for many of these murders.
Police from Birmingham to Montgomery indicate that the drug trade is a motivation for many of these homicides. There are turf wars among dealers and disputes between buyers and dealers. Users who are under the influence of certain drugs may also be more prone to violence.
But why would the drug crime be up?
You figure the unemployment rate in Alabama has fluctuated over the last three years between 6.8 and 10 percent. The underground drug trade is a means to make money for those who don’t have other means. It’s rarely a first-choice career option. Despite the fact that it can be lucrative, it’s also incredibly risky – not just in terms of a possible arrest but also potential violence, as these figures show. Most people only get involved because they have to.
Still, there are some other theories as to the rise in crime. Montgomery Police Chief Kevin Murphy, for example, pins it on a lack of community involvement. People aren’t going to church, they aren’t getting involved in neighborhood watch initiatives and they aren’t investing themselves in the lives of children.
But that may be a symptom of a greater problem: i.e., drugs. There have been cases over the last year in which people have been fatally shot over drug debts as low as $20.
Domestic homicides too have always been a problem in Alabama, though they tend to be exacerbated in the midst of an economic crisis. Money woes can easily push an already-struggling family over the edge. More domestic violence prevention initiatives in place since the 1970s and 1980s has helped to reduce these issues somewhat, but there has always been an ebb and flow.
A person’s chances of conviction in an Alabama homicide case is dependent on numerous factors. Some cases may be fairly straightforward. However, even when there is no doubt as to the perpetrator, issues of evidence collection, motive and details as to how the incident unfolded could play a significant role in the ultimate charge filed and the likelihood of a conviction.
Obviously, homicide is the most serious crime on the books. If you are charged with taking the life of another person, you must place your life in the hands of a skilled criminal defense attorney. No matter what the circumstances, you may have more options that you realize.