Despite an overall decline in felonious crime, cases of gun violence, homicides and assaults surged in 2021.On Dec. 14, the Mobile Police Department (MPD) initiated its 50th homicide investigation of the year, surpassing the previous all-time high of 49 homicides in 2017.
According to MPD spokesperson Charlette Solis, two more possible homicide cases are pending indictments by the Mobile County Grand Jury. There have been eight additional homicides handled this year by the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office outside of the MPD police jurisdiction.
Other forms of violent crime were more frequent this year, too.
According to MPD records, there were 1,151 aggravated assault cases in Mobile in 2019. The number of these cases grew to 1,230 in 2020. As of Dec. 22, this year has already surpassed last year with roughly 1,288 assaults. Aggravated assaults do not exclusively account for gun-involved incidents. There have been roughly 267 cases of gun violence in Mobile and around 240 victims. In 2020, there were 162 cases for the same period with 189 victims; in 2019, there were 146 cases and 172 victims; and in 2018, there were 157 cases and 182 victims.
Some shooting incidents made statewide and national headlines, including the shooting near the end of a Williamson-Vigor high school football game on Oct. 15 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, which left five injured.
According to law enforcement officials, as many as 90 percent of these incidents have aggravating factors, such as bad blood between neighborhood groups, or loosely defined “gangs,” and domestic violence. New MPD Police Chief Paul Prine has made reducing youthful gun violence one of his top initiatives.
In the wake of reporting highlighting the increases in homicides, MPD has rolled out additional policing measures in an attempt to begin pushing back against the surge. Last week, Prine announced MPD will begin a series of traffic stops throughout the city to combat a trend in drive-by shootings into homes and vehicles. On Wednesday, Dec. 22, he announced police cars will be driving throughout the city with stationary blue lights to “increase police visibility.”
Hotspot and intelligence-led policing have been touted as strategies by Prine since his appointment to the chief’s office in October. During his first month on the job, he was faced with nearly a shooting incident every day.
The homicide count is now 6 percent higher than it was this same time last year, according to Prine, and that is reflective of a nationwide phenomenon of increased violent crime. According to press reports, there have been 106 homicides in Birmingham as of Dec. 7, positioning it to surpass 107 murders in 2020; Montgomery had 73 recorded homicides and Huntsville sits at 25.
Backlogged cases, COVID-19 court protocols and declining safety conditions at the Mobile Metro Jail have led to serious concerns with violent criminals obtaining bail bonds and reoffending while awaiting trial.
Mobile County Chief Assistant District Attorney (DA) Keith Blackwood said the local DA’s office is currently facing just under 282 outstanding cases which date back to 2017. Blackwood said the court system only just finished all of the homicide cases from 2016 this year. Officials reported in November as many as 130 homicide suspects have been able to make bail.
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