Mobile police on Friday afternoon had some good news behind a line of crime scene tape.
Mobile Police Department (MPD) officials, Mayor Sandy Stimpson and Executive Director of Public Safety Jame Barber cut the yellow and black tape to signify the opening of the new Central Precinct offices downtown.
The new space includes 4,000 square feet of offices as well as storage for bikes and Segways related to specialized patrols designed for the downtown area. The city will pay the property owners, the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA), $1 per square foot in rent for the first year and $5 per square foot after that, Barber said. RSA also paid for the buildout of the offices, which are located inside its parking deck.
“If it wasn’t for the deal RSA gave us, this wouldn’t be possible,” Stimpson said.
Barber said the new building will replace the MPD’s special events location on Dauphin Street, which consisted of a museum with smaller offices in the back. The previous space, opened in the early 1990s, housed one police sergeant and 25 officers, Barber said.
The new space will be commanded by Capt. James Cunningham and a unit consisting of two lieutenants and as many as 40 officers within the next two years, according to Barber.
“[Cunningham] is now going to lead a full-scale precinct with specialized patrol,” he said. “Specialized patrol is probably the big difference between this precinct and the other precincts and you can see behind me some of the specialized patrols, as far as bicycles, the mounted unit — you’ll see Segways in the downtown area.”
Police say the expanded precinct is not a result of more crime downtown, but rather growth in the area since 1990 and more recently the surge of residential developments, which have increased the area’s overall population.
“There’s huge residential areas, great entertainment districts, a lot of restaurants that have opened up and big commercial areas that are opening up in the downtown area,” he said. “So, our idea is to keep the downtown area safe and that’s been the charge of Capt. Cunningham. He’s doing an outstanding job. I have every bit of confidence in him.”
Cunningham said even though the precinct is expanding, Mobilians shouldn’t expect an overbearing police presence. He said officers are there to enforce the law, but their overall objective is to make sure downtown continues to be fun and feel safe for visitors and residents.
“The way that we look at it is: We want everybody to come downtown and enjoy themselves,” Cunningham said. “We’re not targeting anyone for drinking or having a good time at all, but when it comes to that level that you’re becoming a problem, annoying others around you or causing a disturbance — that’s when we have to interact, and we will.”
Jason Johnson contributed to this report.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).