Profile No. 25

Youth Firearms Violence Initiative -- Birmingham, AL

Program Type or Federal Program Source:
Program to deter gun carrying in hotspot areas; Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Program Goal:
To reduce youth firearm violence.

Specific Groups Targeted by the Strategy:
Juveniles in all middle and high schools.

Geographical Area Targeted by the Strategy:
Birmingham, AL.

Evaluated by:
Internal data collection; Abt Associates Inc., Cambridge, MA.

Contact Information:
Barbara Eaddy
Birmingham Police Department
1710 First Avenue North
Birmingham, AL 35203
Phone: 205­254­1710

Years of Operation:

The Birmingham Police Department set two important goals for this COPS office-funded initiative: to establish school-based community policing, crime prevention education, and training for police officers, students, and teachers; and to develop a computer system to collect, monitor, and analyze crime statistics regarding youth firearm violence. To meet these goals, the police department implemented several strategies.

School resource officers

The police department assigned 18 officers to serve as School Resource Officers (SRO's) whose primary focus was to reduce occurrences of youth firearm crime in the Birmingham Public School System through education and intervention. Special programs such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.®), Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.), Problem Oriented Policing (POP), and the Scanning, Analysis, Response, and Assessment (SARA) model were introduced into the school system curriculum. School officials and officers worked collaboratively to detect firearms in schools by conducting searches of lockers and vehicles and by using handheld metal detectors during random checks of students. The officers also worked to prevent trespassing on school grounds and to take control of other disruptive quality-of-life problems to maintain a secure and safe environment for the students and teachers within the schools. Additionally, SRO's assigned to schools were trained to teach and counsel students, teachers, and parents on gun violence prevention using the STAR (Straight Talk About Risk) Program (see profile 54).

Computerized crime tracking system

In order to monitor encounters with juveniles and develop statistical trends, the police department developed a computer tracking system.

Part I offenses involving juveniles declined 28 percent from 1997­98, falling from 1,045 to 752. During the same period, firearm charges declined 69 percent (from 108 to 33). The total number of firearm-related incidents involving one or more juveniles fell 39 percent (from 266 to 162).

As a result of the programs implemented in the Birmingham Public School System, officers have become positive role models for students, introduced effective school-based antiviolence programs, taught handgun safety, and served as a liaison between the school and the police department.

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