After early surge, murders trending down in Mobile in 2022

MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – After a wave of killings that continued where a bloody 2021 left off, violence has suddenly subsided over the past three months in the port city.

Last year saw the highest number of intentional killings in a decade, and Mobile was ahead of that year’s pace halfway through. Year-to-date, Mobile has recorded 33 homicides, up from 42 at the same time last year. Mobile Police Chief Paul Prine said the random nature of homicides makes it difficult to predict them. But he said the department had stepped up patrols in high-crime areas and tried to address a labor shortage.

“We can have an effect on the number of homicides by targeting those who tend to commit violent crimes in our community,” he told FOX10 News. “And so we were very successful in doing that.”

Prine warned that the current downtrend can quickly rise again for no apparent reason. But he added that there are other encouraging trends. Since the beginning of the year, armed robberies have decreased by 26% compared to the same period last year. Assaults involving shooting are down 9%. And shootings into cars and buildings have decreased by 10%.

The city has held several community events in an effort to engage the public and provide resources to stressed communities. It’s part of Operation Echo Stopm, a comprehensive violence prevention initiative that Prine credits with reducing crime.

The city reported this week that a gunshot detection system part of Echo Stop has alerted police to 179 gunshot incidents since it went live in July.

“We made a few arrests; probably not as much as we would like,” he said. “However, I will tell you that the detection program, itself, certainly picks up the shots, and we respond to them.”

Some community activists said they thought their anti-violence message was getting through.

“This is the result of a partnership between law enforcement and our community,” said Reverend Marvin Charles Lue Jr., chief servant and publisher of Stewart Memorial CME Church on Marlin Luther Avenue. King Jr.” This is the result of our community standing up and saying, ‘Listen, we’re going to live,’ and becoming more involved in the lives of our citizens and in the lives of our neighbors.

Lue, who is also a community organizer for the Faith in Action Alabama mobile hub, offered another possible reason for the downward trend — the waning effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the anxiety and depression he caused contributed to the violence.

Lue also said he believes police-community relations have improved in recent years.

“There is still a lot of work to do,” he said. “There is still a lot of confidence to build. But we are taking it one step at a time.

Prine said the police rely on the cooperation of the community. He said people are often hesitant to call the police about matters they consider trivial.

“But that’s what we get paid for,” he says. “We get paid to come and see things whether or not there’s a crime going on.”

Prine said he’s glad violent crime is moving in the right direction, but he’s realistic that it might not last.

“With crime, there are always ebbs and flows,” he said, adding that for now, “I think we are winning and doing a good job.”

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