How we slashed crime by 70% in downtown Birmingham

Douglas Stewart,
Douglas Stewart

ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.

Today’s guest blogger is Douglas Stewart.  If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.

The story you are about to hear is truly remarkable.

If an author had written it as a plot in a book, you wouldn’t have thought it possible.

For many years downtown Birmingham had the reputation of being unsafe.

Many people had given up on our downtown.  There were vacant buildings everywhere and businesses were rushing to the suburbs never to return.

Then in 1995 a group of property and business owners, tired and frustrated by the conditions downtown, came together to create the City Action Partnership (CAP), a nonprofit business improvement district.

Its success has exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations.

Crime has been reduced by 70% in the downtown district patrolled by CAP.*

Actually there is less crime in our CAP district downtown than in suburban neighborhoods such as Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills**

CAP Officers removing graffiti
CAP Officers removing graffiti

Graffiti is gone.

People are walking the streets —both day and night.

Today our City Action Partnership is known more commonly as CAP, and depending on who you ask, as the “guys that ride bikes around downtown,” or the “guys in red who do . . . something or another.”

That “something” has changed a bit over time, but the primary function has remained the same as it was in 1995 when CAP was started. That mission was to increase safety and the perception of safety downtown.

CAP Officers, the guys (and gal) in red, patrol downtown on bikes, in trucks, and even on foot, acting as an additional safety resource for the downtown community. CAP is not a substitute for the police but instead, a partner with them, acting as an extra set of eyes and ears to keep our community safe.

Through the years, as downtown conditions have improved, CAP has remained focused on safety, but has also taken on more responsibilities. Today’s CAP also provides motorist assistance, sanitation services, and helps with other community needs.

CAP Officers helping a stranded motorist
CAP Officers helping a stranded motorist

Examples of CAP services include:

  • Fix, inflate, or change flat tires
  • Jump start dead batteries
  • Security escorts
  • Removal of graffiti
  • Unlock vehicles
  • Cleaning and trash removal
  • Assisting homeless find services and discouraging panhandling

Since funding is provided by the downtown property owners, CAP provides all these services for FREE…and NO TAX DOLLARS ARE SPENT.

What’s not seen and can’t be measured in numbers or dollars is the impact CAP makes downtown and on surrounding neighborhoods.

The area is cleaner, friendlier, and people now want to be downtown again. Today, we see more restaurants, businesses, and visitors downtown than we have in years. People are visiting parks like Railroad Park and Rotary Trail. People flock to performances at places like the LyricAlabamaCarver, and Red Mountain Theaters as well as the BJCC. You can spend all day with the kids at McWane Science Center, visiting the Civil Rights Institute, or taking in a Baron’s game at Regions Field.

Prominent older buildings with unique architectural offerings, such as the PizitzThomas Jefferson Tower, and the Graves Building, are being renovated and given new purpose. UAB has brought world-class education to downtown, and the Innovation District  has created a new tech scene in Birmingham. Other areas around downtown are thriving and growing as well, like Uptown, 5 Points South, Parkside, Avondale, Lakeview, and the Loft District.

CAP Officer planting flowers
CAP Officer planting flowers

Kelley Ingram Park, along with part of the Civil Rights District, is being considered for Birmingham’s first National Park, and the Greater Birmingham Convention and Tourism Bureau continues to bring people in from around the country for special events and conventions.

Lofts and apartments are sprouting. And Publix, our much awaited grocery store, is opening soon.

It’s a great time to be downtown, and CAP is excited to be part of it! Please come experience it for yourself and see what today’s downtown is all about. And if you happen to have a problem, CAP is here to help.

For more information, visit CAP online at  or on Facebook and Instagram at CAPisDowntown.

For immediate service call (205) 251-0111.

*CAP Service Area: bounded to the north by 11th Avenue North (to include the Civic Center) south to 5th Avenue South, east to 22nd Street and west to 16th Street North & 18th Street South, respectively.  Railroad Park & Children’s of Alabama also included.

**Methodology of crime measurement

Douglas Stewart is a marketing and public relations professional with 17 years of nonprofit experience in Birmingham and Washington, D.C. He is currently the Communications Manager with City Action Partnership and strives to help CAP, and the community, build a better Birmingham. He can be reached anytime at

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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

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One thought on “How we slashed crime by 70% in downtown Birmingham”

  1. That’s pretty cool. I’ve lived here for years and I remember when the guys in red started patrolling, but I didn’t realize how much stuff you do for us. Thank you! I have to say I go downtown a lot more than I use too. Keep up the good work! 

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