Town Hall meeting

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Selma focuses on crime

By Deborah Goodwin

The Selma Times-Journal

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The mayor, city council, police department, crime task force and Selma citizens all gathered at a town hall meeting for one common reason – the city’s war on crime.

Following a welcome by Mayor James Perkins Jr. and invocation by Police Chief Jimmy Martin, the crime task force led the meeting with four recommendations to the Selma City Council – police department analysis, 911, curfew and noise – and the success of a neighborhood watch program.

Task force co-chairman Billy Atchison recommended that the Selma Police Department be subjected to an analysis by a professional person or firm who has knowledge of the departments of comparable size.

Areas analyzed would be procedural policies and operational policies. The analyst would report if the city’s department has enough resources, the correct technology or if any policies need to be changed.

“Our police department is doing an outstanding job.

There have been lots of improvements here in the last three or four months and we are very impressed with some of the changes that have already been made,” said Atchison. However, one citizen had a difference of opinion.

Selma resident, Randy Smith, said, “The true story of what’s happening in Selma, Alabama is not reported.”

Smith expressed that he suspected that the police department might be asking the media to refrain from reporting activity that would be adverse to the city of Selma.

Dr. Monica Newton responded by saying that she’d had the same suspicion at one time, but found incidents she knew of to be listed in the police reports in The Selma Times-Journal.

On the issue of noise violations, Task Force member Gene Hisel recommended that the noise violations be handled with some citizen involvement.

Citizens would call the police department with the violator’s tag number and car description.

The police department would send the violator a letter as a warning.

Upon repeated offense, the violator would get a call from the police department, following with a visit on the third offense.

Selma resident Steven Brooks responded to the recommendation saying, “Folks, that’s not gonna cut it. Just recording this is going to take a recording secretary.”

Speaking of sending an officer to the offender’s residence, Brooks said, “You’re sending them into a world of hurt.”

Brooks suggested that the police department look at installing decibel meters that would alert officers of noise violators.

Making suggestions to the council on E-911 was Task force member Dennis Rutledge.

Rutledge made six recommendations concerning E-911 operators:

1. Stress management training

2. Psychological test prior to hiring to see if they can handle the job

3. Customer Service training (the center has received some complaints)

4. Interface training with the Selma Police Department (operator would ride with an officer and new officers would in turn spend a day with an operator)

5. Promotional opportunities (current limitations are contributing for a high turnover rate)

6. ID cards worn on their person while working

Co-chairman Barbara Brown recommended a curfew ordinance for children not to be allowed on the streets between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight to 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The exceptions would be emancipated minors or minors accompanied by an adult.

Brown expressed that the curfew would only be used as punitive measure, but as a tool to reduce crime and to help children and parents.

Newton spoke not as a task force member, but as a citizen of Old Town reporting the success of the implemented Neighborhood Watch program. Old Town has registered with the National Association of Town Watches and started a neighborhood website on which 75 families have registered for free.

Newton announced the National Night Out, which will take place on Aug. 1 in Old Town.

“You have to be involved.

It takes each one of us to make a difference in our community,” said Newton.

Also reporting at the meeting was District Judge Bob Armstrong, saying that juvenile crime in Selma is down 25 percent from last year and third-degree assaults are down 40 percent.

“We are making progress.

There’s a lot of work to be done, but there’s a lot of positive stuff going on,” said Armstrong of the many programs in place to deter juvenile crime.

District Attorney Michael Jackson said, “We do have a gang problem in this little city and there’s no use in burying our head in the sand.”

Jackson reported that a program is in place where officers will go to the schools to talk to the kids about gangs.

Sherry James gave a PowerPoint presentation on the Trust Build initiative team that has been busy helping neighborhoods clean up old cars, overgrown properties and boarding up vacant houses.

The teams efforts were received with applause.

City Council president George Evans addressed crime task force saying, “We will entertain your recommendations and work toward them.”

He thanked the task force for their work and the crowd for their attendance and feedback.

Evans stated that it takes a team effort to solve the crime problems in the city.

“It’s not them and us.

It’s we,” said Evans.

There were roughly, 80 citizens in attendance.

Officials made mention of the decline in attendance from the last Town Hall meeting.

“The numbers tonight are nothing like what we’ve had initially,” said Evans, the mayor shaking his head in agreement.

Perkins stated that Selma is trying to build an inclusive community, which is a commitment to build a better community.

In closing, Perkins said, “Overall I think we have heard some good news. I would like to challenge you to tell the good news.

I heard someone say once that bad news travels.

It can get all over town before you get home, but good news … if you don’t carry it, it will stick right where it is.”