A Tragic Milestone: Murders in Selma have now topped last year’s numbers – something’s gotta give

Published 11:36 am Wednesday, December 2, 2020

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Two Black bodies were found shot to death on Ceola L. Miller Avenue over the weekend, pushing the number of people murdered in Selma this year to 10, two more than last year, a truly tragic milestone for a city that has desperately tried to rise above the criminal violence that has plagued it for years.

Though other cities in the state record far more murders each year, Selma has struggled to shake its reputation as one of Alabama’s most dangerous cities and a year-to-year increase in murders stands to make that work even more difficult.

Any life needlessly lost is devastating – it marks a life snuffed out long before its natural expiration date, it marks moments of joy and triumph never experienced, it marks the deprivation of existence at the hands of a fellow human – but here, where so many resources have been expended in the fight against such destruction, the sting is so much worse.

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When a million dollars was pumped into the local “Weed and Seed” program last year, local leaders and law enforcement officials hailed it as a game changer for Selma.

During a May 2019 press conference announcing the grant, U.S. Attorney Richard Moore noted that Selma had a “violent crime problem” and that the infusion of funds would help get “trigger pullers” off the streets.

“There’s really not that many of them in Selma,” Moore said during the press conference. “This is a game changer for Selma, Alabama. We will take back our streets. We will make Selma safe again.”

Roughly a year and a half after those words were spoken, Selma residents read reports of two men dead in the street, whose murder sent violent death rates higher than the previous year – surely they now wonder when we will take back our streets and, more importantly, how.

To be sure, no one is alleging that law enforcement officials from the Selma Police Department (SPD), the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO), the District Attorney’s office or the “Weed and Seed” program are solely to blame for the continuing, and apparently increasing, rate of violent crime in the city – by all accounts, they have done everything within their means and power to quell crime and violence in the city – but the fact remains that something must be done to address this epidemic of violence.

First and foremost, every effort must be taken to provide the SPD with the funds it needs to implement the community policing programs envisioned by SPD Chief Kenta Fulford, as well as the funds to be fully staffed and properly trained and equipped.

Beyond that, there must be a significant investment in education and community programming for young people, as well as robust outreach efforts geared toward communities where violence is most prevalent.

Unlike downtown beautification or tourism marketing, this issue must be addressed immediately – after all, there are innocent lives still on the line and nothing is more important than that.