City Council should live up to promise

Published 7:03 pm Saturday, June 5, 2010

Every Selma City Council member sitting around the table today politicked on public safety nearly two years ago. People need to feel safe in their homes. We need increased public safety. Those were the messages Selma registered voters heard and responded to at the time.

A 3-year-old child was killed by a stray bullet in April. Briefly, the child became a clarion for the community to join together and stop the violence.

But at night in the city, especially in East Selma and Old Town, the calls of “shots fired” from dispatchers are more the norm than the exception.

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The council has a public safety committee, which meets infrequently, to handle issues that come up in the city.

Chief William Riley has hired enough officers to strengthen the entire police department to 52 officers, but that doesn’t mean 52 officers are on the road.

At one point, city council members focused on the downtown clubs and met with club owners to help stop the violence there. Anyone outside those clubs at shutting down time, about 3 a.m. on the weekends, can see the club owners stuff them in (where is the fire department ensuring the buildings meet code?) and those club owners generally maintain order inside the structures. It’s outside that becomes the problem.

Because of the problems outside the clubs, police officers line up in the streets, lights blazing, officers out watching. These officers are pulled from other areas of their patrol to take care of these issues.

Some council members have recommended area precincts across the city. Council member Corey Bowie has pleaded for some kind of precinct at GWC Homes, where many calls originate. Then there’s Lawrence Street, Lapsley Street, Church Street, Alabama Avenue, Water Avenue, Bienville Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Street — all frequent call sites for violence.

Fortunately, recently, nobody has died, although several have been treated at Vaughan Regional Hospital for gun shot wounds to the legs. How long, though, before another stray bullet kills an innocent?

The police department has the cars, the computers, the video-mikes and other equipment to carry out its mission. More bodies are needed. It’s understandable low pay and an inability to offer perks that other cities can dole out keep some recruits out of Selma.

But something has to give. The council needs to probe deep into public safety issues in Selma. Each council member promised the residents here a safe place to live.

Let’s see the results.