A homicide prevention strategy that will work

Danny Carr, District Attorney
Danny Carr, District Attorney
Prim F. Escalona, U.S. Attorney
Prim F. Escalona, U.S. Attorney

Today’s guest columnists are Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr and U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona.

Jefferson County has a murder problem.

Our murder problem is so prolifically deadly, that it even eclipses the annual homicide rate for the entire continent of Australia, a nation of more than 25 million people.

Yes, our county is more violent than a continent that has nearly 40 times our population. In 2021, Australia had 193 murder victims, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

During that same time, Jefferson County had 235 homicides. Birmingham, the epicenter of our violence, saw 144 homicides in 2022.

Public and media attention are frequently focused on the senseless, random shootings and acts of violence that often involve young offenders. In criminal justice administration, we’re taught to follow the data in order to address crime. The data for Jefferson County is strikingly clear on how we can reduce our community’s murder problem.

Community violence in Jefferson County is inextricably linked to domestic violence. In 2022, 71% of Jefferson County’s homicide offenders had a prior history of domestic violence. In 2021, that number was 74%. In 2020, it was 53%, and 58% in 2019.

And, yes, many teenage and young adult shooters in Jefferson County first come to the attention of law enforcement because of domestic violence. Nearly 60% of Jefferson County’s homicide offenders in 2022, who were 21 years old or younger, already had a history of domestic violence – having committed on average two prior DV offenses before killing in our community.

There is no other factor more strongly correlated with who is doing the killing in our community than looking at people who have a prior history of domestic violence.

This progression of violence exists because our community has yet to prioritize protections for victims and accountability for domestic abusers. Domestic abuse is often treated as a private matter, within households and families. But, violence in homes escalates when it goes unchecked. Abusers become more brazen. Abusers don’t just get away with violence once, they get away with it countless times until they have no restraint before pulling a trigger.

Even when a victim files charges for assault or strangulation against their abuser, our justice system often makes them wait years before their day in court. Too often, due to persistent fear or a desire to move on in life, victims stop cooperating in prosecutions and cases are dropped. These dropped cases then allow abusers to continue their escalation of violence in the home and in our community.

Data consistently and emphatically shows that people who are violent within their home and relationships are violent within our community.

So, the question is, what can we do about it? How can we improve protections for victims of domestic violence and increase supervision of domestic abusers before they become murderers?

Too much of our public safety system puts too heavy of a burden on traumatized victims. And, our community is suffering because few victims can bear that weight. For example, victims in Jefferson County are uniquely burdened when seeking protection.

Jefferson County is the only county in Alabama where victims are required to appear in person to seek a protection from abuse order. Every other county allows victims to request a protection order remotely, like while receiving care at an advocacy organization or in an attorney’s office.

For the victims who are granted protection, too few protection orders are successfully served on their abusers. Nearly 1,000 protection from abuse orders are issued each year in Jefferson County. But, due to limited law enforcement resources and abusers evading service, fewer than half are ever successfully served on the abuser. This evasion of service negates some of the criminal consequences abusers face if their violence continues.

Even after protection from abuse orders are served, Alabama has no mechanism to ensure that abusers surrender weapons that are prohibited by both state and federal law.

If we don’t do more to help victims find protection from violence, data clearly shows their abusers will eventually harm others in our community – often with deadly force.

Not every domestic abuser becomes a homicide offender. But, those who do commit homicide in Jefferson County have an average of three to four domestic abuse offenses. Lethality and risk-assessments exist to help guide our public safety systems, and we must consistently use them.

In 2022, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office developed a Domestic Violence High-Risk Team to identify abusers who are exhibiting repeated, escalating violence and to prioritize any available prosecution to best protect our community from those violent offenders.

Ever-escalating violence permeates every aspect of our socio-economic fabric. Domestic violence is not and cannot be a private problem. It is directly connected to our community’s murder problem.

Do you want a crime-fighting strategy that will reduce homicides in Jefferson County? Let’s prioritize enforcement on those already violent offenders, who data shows are the most likely to kill. And, let’s protect the victims they’ve already harmed. That’s a homicide prevention strategy that will work.

District Attorney Danny Carr was elected in November 2018 as District Attorney for the Tenth Judicial Circuit of Alabama.  Mr. Carr attended Council Elementary and Jackson Olin High School, then received his undergraduate degree from Alabama State University and his Juris Doctorate Degree from Miles College School of Law. 

Prim F. Escalona was appointed as U.S. Attorney on July 16, 2020, after holding multiple leadership positions within the Department of Justice’s Office of Legislative Affairs and the Office of Legal Policy. Ms. Escalona received her law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law and her Bachelor of Arts degree from Birmingham-Southern College. 

David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown.  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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Invite David to speak for free to your group about how we can have a more prosperous metro Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com

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14 thoughts on “A homicide prevention strategy that will work”

  1. …In light of above article, it boggles the mind why anyone would still choose to live in Birmingham, and why these posts for “Birmingham Comeback Town” even exists…”Comeback” to what? …Who would want anything to do with Birmingham’s ridiculous past? …

    A past that is utterly indefensible!

    Are you all on drugs ?

    Maybe it’s time to MOVE !!…You think ?…Daaahhh…!!

    ~ Ballard from Huntsville

  2. Mr. Ballard, you question who would want to live in Birmingham?
    Well, lets see, dozens of international and national medical researchers on the cutting edge of finding cures for horrible diseases. Some of them are the go-to source on CNN regularly.
    Their articles are published constantly in esoteric journals.
    Myself and a friend have visited over thirty different ethnic restaurants, the owners of which find the city wildly receptive to their fare. One was voted the best restaurant in America via the James Beard Award

    You seem overly concerned about racial history, but that’s ok.
    I’ve visited the Civil Rights Museum and it was very informative.
    I’ve also visited the art museum and enjoyed the MesoAmerican
    collection and European drawings. The Birmingham Museum of Art is considered one of the best in the South. I like to have some variety in my enjoyments and they are not all hinged on Birmingham and race, although several of my excellent doctors have been Black and I dated a beautiful Black lady for several years and its funny, we talked little about the past or horrible, evil white people.
    So, come to live and work in Birmingham, If you’ve got a PHD in biomedical engineering it will give you some leverage. I myself don’t, but at least I can admire those that do and be Walter Mitty for a while as I walk across the stage in Stockholm.

    1. VVW…

      I don’t know who you are “VVW”, but are you really trying to impress me about whomsoever is from Birmingham and is yapping and touting their egos on CNN !…On CNN ? You’re joking, aren’t you ?

      That’s sad.

      Birmingham…Keep talk’in :

      “The City of Huntsville, Alabama, is the 2022-2023 best place to live in the United States, according to a ranking by U.S. News & World Report. U.S.”


      And in the recent past both Kiplinger and the National Geographic have also ranked Huntsville # 1 in the country as the best/fastest growing business economy and lifestyle… IN THE UNITED STATES…

      And in our own Huntsville Museum of Art we’ve had countless great exhibitions that make Birmingham’s museum pale by comparison.

      So why do I want to live in Birmingham…”VVW” ???

      Daahhh…Eye dun’t theenk so…señor !!

      ~ Ballard from Huntsville

    1. HILDE CAMP…

      …I’m certainly not a Birmingham defender, but domestic violence is not any more proportionately endemic to Birmingham than it is in any other major American city.

      America is a violent culture. For a number of reasons. America is a very sick and fragmented country.

      Guns/alchohol abuse/ drugs/ignorance/illiteracy/ dummied-down education/superstitions…any number of reasons…

      ~ Ballard from Huntsville

  3. How does our system give a man like this 20 years but only 3 to serve? We had him and could have protected our community from him. From AL.com 2/8/2023. https://www.al.com/news/birmingham/2023/02/man-wanted-in-shooting-that-killed-pregnant-birmingham-mother-injured-2-girls-shoots-self-in-head-as-police-close-in.html

    “The capital murder suspect police say shot his pregnant ex-girlfriend and two young children one week ago turned the gun on himself during a police chase Tuesday night, authorities said.

    “Goldsmith in 2017 was charged with two counts of capital murder and two counts of attempted murder in Midfield, but was acquitted of those charges two years later.

    “At the time of his Midfield arrest, Goldsmith was already awaiting trial on an attempted murder charge out of Bessemer in a 2016 case where authorities Goldsmith and another man opened fire on a male victim who also was inside a vehicle. He was shot in the neck, arm and foot.

    “He pleaded guilty to attempted murder in the Bessemer case in 2021 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison with three to serve and five years on probation. It is that case in which prosecutors are seeking to revoke his probation.”

  4. Our young people have no clue as to who they are, This statement will be an over used cliche, but everything important in life have been taken f rom youth. 1. God, 2 family, destiny, who are you, why are you here, and where are you going, have been taken away.
    We have been given the idea, that MONEY, will solve all our ills.
    l remember my uncertain years as a preteen and teenager, there were restraints.
    Now, no restraints, whatever makes you feel good, or boost your Ego, not understanding it won’t last so we keep going down the beaten path that leads to confusion.
    I would stake my life on the fact that if God’s teaching were put where they belong, family again placed as a high priority, people would change.
    Youth, are told they are animals, give them sex to replace love and family that is what we become animals.
    l base this on my own life experiences from youth until adulthood.
    So, as long as

    1. Dear “GERALDINE”,

      Well !…

      And…uh…no doubt…you had all the clues bequeathed to you at a tender age, as to “who you were, your destiny, why you were here and where you were going”…Right.

      And now you want the current generation to share your delusions about “God” and country, otherwise, as far as your concerned, they are lost.

      Did you ever consider that maybe you’re the lost one ?

      Your arrogance doesn’t particularly belong to your generation…All the nonsense and monkey-see monkey-do instructions were passed down to you, and you swallowed them like fresh baked bread.

      Newsflash : We are all “animals in the cosmic scheme of things. And what’s so bad about being animals ? Animals are such noble creatures, and they are not to blame for what we have made of planet earth.

      Bottom line : It’s really egregiously authoritarian (and presumptuous) of you to impose your will, and your tired old clichéd expectations upon future generations.

      They will find a way. Or perhaps they won’t. The future is theirs, and the irony is that they have a very good probability, on the near horizon, of having indefinite lifespans.

      The future belongs to them. Not you.

      ~ Ballard from Huntsville

  5. This article is a major talking point of why Birmingham continues to shrink and the suburbs continue to grow. Failed leadership, failed crime prevention, failed school systems, failed roads, failed water & sewer systems.

    I realize this website is suppose to foster communication for a better Birmingham in which the greater METRO area will reconcile and prosper together. However, there can never be reconciliation without recognition and acceptance of our own flaws past/present (BHM – lack of leadership/crime and Suburbs – racial disparity/white flight).

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