According to a recent news article from AL.com, the United States Attorney in Birmingham, Alabama has developed a new strategy to reduce gun violence and crime.
Most people are aware that Birmingham, like many other cities across America, suffers from more than its fair share of gun violence. Young people, who authorities say need more structure and positive support to leave this way of life behind and become responsible members of the community, allegedly commit many of these crimes.
A recent study by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ranks Birmingham in the top 10 most violent cities in the United States. More than 80 percent of all homicides in Birmingham are the result of gun violence. In an effort to slow this increasing problem of gun violence in our area, state, local, and federal authorities are working together to create and implement a new strategy to help fix this serious problem.
Authorities say they are using an approach that evidence shows is the best way to accomplish their lofty goals. The effort relies on a partnership of law enforcement and community leaders and other agencies to “directly engage” those who are believed to be most responsible for the gun violence in Birmingham and “holding them accountable.” They way in which they are to be held accountable is by targeting and prioritizing prosecutions to those main suspects. They hope this will disrupt gang criminal activity and help disrupt the gangs themselves.
As our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys understand, federal prosecutors know this approach to crime prevention as a “weed and seed” program. Essentially, police go to so-called high-crime neighborhoods and arrest those whom they think are most responsible for the crime. This generally means suspected gang members and alleged drug dealers. After they arrest the most feared suspects, they attempt to provide social services by offering community educations programs on other options than a life of crime. Basically, they “weed out” the worst offenders and plant “seeds” of change into the community.
While there is nothing wrong with trying to make our city a safer place, the problem is that these investigations, though often given innocuous names such as “safe neighborhood initiatives,” often end up with officers routinely driving into a neighborhood in a rented SUV, jumping out, and forcefully arresting anyone they see out on the streets. In many cases, there was never sufficient probable cause to make an arrest in the first place, so they write in their police reports they were relying on information from trusted confidential informants (CIs), tips from anonymous concerned citizens, or the fact that they were in a “high crime area.”
If you have a loved one or friend who was caught up in this type of police enforcement effort, and they have asked you to help find them an attorney, you should make sure the attorney you meet with is willing to do what is necessary to challenge the probable cause of the arrest and fight for his client’s rights to the fullest extent possible.