Comebacktown published by David Sher & Phyllis Neill to begin a discussion on creating a better government for our region.
Today’s guest blogger is Teresa Thorne.
Downtown Birmingham is as safe as the over-the-mountain neighbors Mountain Brook and Vestavia. How can I make that assertion? Here are the numbers:
Crime in the central downtown (85-block area) that CAP patrols has dropped 55% from 1995-2011. That’s serious crime—the same ones reported annually to the FBI (Burglary, Theft, Arson, Homicide, Robbery, Aggravated Assault, Theft of Vehicle, and Vehicle Break-Ins).
In order to give some context to what that means, compare similar crime in the surrounding cities. Using the number of people who work and live downtown as the “population,” a rate of risk can be determined by the ratio of population to crime. In 2011, the risk was 1.7 (out of 100) for Mountain Brook, 1.6 for Vestavia, and 1.3 for the CAP district downtown. That does not count the 3.5 million people who come downtown for unique cultural attractions, making the practical risk far lower.
CAP (City Action Partnership) provides uniformed patrol of downtown and works with the Birmingham Police Department to keep the streets safe and friendly. Part of that mission includes acting as ambassadors, guiding visitors and providing free services. Imagine returning to your parked car at night and finding the battery is dead or discovering a flat tire or that the keys are locked in the car? CAP responds—usually in five or ten minutes—to solve the problem. About 6,000 of the 14,000 annual requests for service involve helping stranded motorists, but many quality-of-life services CAP provides fly under the radar:
• An average of 300 times a year, CAP directly assists the police department or fire department.
• Over 11,000 pieces of graffiti have been removed from the area since the implementation of the program, at a current average of 750 per year. In addition CAP removes trash and cuts grass and weeds from places where the city cannot, helping to keep the area pristine.
• CAP has partnered to create beautification projects such as hanging flower baskets, the 911 Memorial Walk, and the Birmingham Pledge mural.
• CAP has been an advocate for improved lighting and acts as liaison to expedite the reporting of repairs for traffic signals, potholes, sewer drainage issues, etc.
• An average of 320 times a year, CAP renders assistance to mentally ill or homeless persons on the street in downtown Birmingham and has been directly responsible for helping 78 homeless persons off the streets and into stable housing situations.
• CAP discourages illegal panhandling on the downtown streets.
So what does this all mean? It’s about risk and decision-making. Flying in an airplane is statistically much safer than riding in a car, yet some people refuse to fly. That’s their prerogative, of course, but they miss out on a lot. The risk of crime in downtown Birmingham is the same as being in the suburban neighborhoods. Downtown has a lot to offer (as the thousands of folks who have decided to make it their home and the millions more who visit can tell you). Don’t miss out.
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Teresa (T.K.) Thorne is the executive director of CAP (City Action Partnership) and a retired captain from the Birmingham Police Department. Active in the community, she also moonlights as an author, and her debut novel, Noah’s Wife, won ForeWord Reviews “Book of the Year” award for historical fiction in 2009. Find out more about her writing at www.tkthorne.com and about CAP at www.capisdowntown.com.