Downtown Birmingham safe as Mt. Brook or Vestavia


Teresa Thorne Executive Director of City Action Partnership (CAP)

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.

Let’s turn Birmingham around.  Click here to sign up for our newsletter.  There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)

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 and about CAP at



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5 thoughts on “Downtown Birmingham safe as Mt. Brook or Vestavia”

  1. *I can’t even believe what I just read. Teresa Thorne is a master of using a certain set of numbers to make a case for a complete untruth. I am sure this is how she secures funding for her organization. Claiming that this particular area of downtown Birmingham is even remotely as safe as Mtn. Brook and Vestavia is a bold face lie! I want to see the numbers when you back out burglary, theft, theft of vehicle and vehicle break ins. There is no question the OTM areas have a relatively high number of those crimes. And they are committed by the residents of the very area Ms. Thorne says is so safe. They come OTM to find the expensive cars to break into and stores to steal from.

    If this forum wants to present fact verses a biased opinion, show me the crime numbers for Downtown Bham verses Mtn. Brook and Vestavia as they relate to the real violent crime – homicide, robbery and assault. The numbers won’t even be close. Birmingham is consistantly in the highest murder per capita in the country category. No one with any sense could ever believe that any part of Birmingham is as safe as any of the OTM areas.

    If you want to promote Birmingham as a great place to live, go ahead and do it. More power to you and I hope you can get the Downtown area truly turned around. That said, please don’t insult the intelligence of life long residents of the metro Bham area by trying to convince us of something that is just NOT true. Downtown Birmingham is a dangerous place and the OTM burbs are not!!

  2. I’ll try to respond to comments, but if I miss something let me know.  
    –The CAP area is roughly 85 blocks in central downtown and goes as far south as 5th Ave. S.  
    – -CAP works well after dark, until midnight Mon-Thursday and until 2 AM on Friday & Saturdays. 
    (There is all kinds of info, including a map of the area CAP covers and work hours at
    –Re pulling out violent crime from the mix, the raw numbers are as follows: 
    Vestavia – Mt. Brook – CAP area downtown 
    Rape 4 1 2 
    Robbery 7 4 8 
    are fortunate in that we don’t have to “raise funding” for CAP. It is
    supported by an assessment paid annually by property owners. 
    –I had
    enough stats in graduate school to know I am not a statistician! The
    comparison factors are an attempt to make “common sense” of and give
    perspective to what the numbers mean regarding risk and safety; not
    proposing they are anything more…or less.

  3. *People with an agenda will skew numbers to make you think the city is either safe or unsafe.  So let’s us an outside source without an agenda.  A source that just uses the numbers generated from our own police departments.

    Forbes magazine says Birmingham is the 5th most dangerous city to live in the United States.  Dangerous as in homocide, rape, and armed robbery. 

    I wonder why Mountain Brook did’t make Forbes list?  According to Ms. Thorne it is just as dangerous as Birmingham.

  4. *John, Forbes compares Birmingham (core city) with metro areas such Nashville, Jacksonville, etc which includes their suburban neighborhoods.  This is not a fair comparison.  For instance, St. Louis is rated as the most dangerous city on Forbes list.  However, St. Louise (city) does not reside within St. Louis County and St. Louis County has 92 municipalities.  Jefferson County has 37 municipalities.  

    This is another example on how our government structure makes us look worse than we are.  The equivalent Mt . Brook area in Nashville is included in Nashville’s crime statistics. However,  Birmingham’s crime numbers don’t include Mt. Brook, Vestavia Hills, Trussville, etc.

    Forbes admits to these inconsistencies in their statistics. 

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