Johnson: Ward 8 becoming ‘war zone’

Published 3:18 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2020

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During Tuesday night’s Selma City Council meeting, Selma City Councilman Michael Johnson bemoaned the recent spate of gunshots that have plagued Ward 8, saying that the area is becoming a “war zone.”

According to Johnson, phone calls have been steady from Ward 8 residents stating that the gun blasts recently shattering the nigh silence have left them scared, many of them reporting falling to the floor or taking shelter in a closet for safety.

Johnson said residents are wondering what’s being done to stop the shooting and what the “Weed and Seed” program is doing in terms of quelling gun violence in the area.

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“We need to give our constituents some kind of input on what’s going on with the shooting,” Johnson said. “You should be able to sleep in your house comfortably without getting up in the middle of the night and jumping to the floor.

Selma Police Department (SPD) Capt. Johnny King confirmed that the department has received calls about the gunfire in Ward 8 and stated that the recent shootings appear to be in retaliation for another shooting.

King said the department is beefing up patrols in the area to stem the constant gunshots and called on residents to speak up and report neighborhood activities that “don’t look right.”

Later in the meeting, SFD Chief Chris Graham appeared before the council to call for a 12 percent raise across the board for the department, noting that he is on the cusp of losing at least three officers to better paying departments.

“I didn’t ask for a raise to come to me…but I am asking that we do something about trying to get a raise to our firemen,” Graham said. “We’re going to continue to lose people in the department if we don’t do something about it.”

According to Graham, rough numbers indicate that giving a 12 percent raise to the current SFD roster would cost just over $138,700 – the increase would mean the starting pay for Selma firefighters would go from just over $28,600 to roughly $32,000 annually.

Graham said the department has around 23 vacancies and the cost of applying the pay raise to those positions would be an additional cost of more than $93,000.

Elsewhere in the meeting, Selma City Councilman John Leashore once again blasted those filling area streets with trash and litter and opined that the city should consider installing cameras to catch and hold accountable those dumping refuse across the city.

“We have no other ways and means of letting people know these things are just not right and, to a certain degree, are criminal,” Leashore said.

Leashore asserted that those dumping trash know that, in the absence of an enforcement agency, there is no teeth behind any anti-littering ordinance approved by the council and that strategically-placed cameras might be the only way to stymie the rash of roadside waste.