BESSEMER, Ala. (WIAT) — While Bessemer city officials are frustrated about the growing crime problem across the city, they remain optimistic about their plan to fight back.
“My message to the criminal element is get ready because we are coming,” Bessemer police chief Mike Roper said.
Roper said he’s fed up with Bessemer’s soaring gun violence. In 2020, the Bessemer Police Department investigated 18 murders.
“What we have is a segment in this community that doesn’t care anything about life,” he said. “They don’t care about someone else’s life and evidently they don’t care about their own life.”
Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley said the senseless loss of life is tragic and happening far too often, especially with the youth.
“The majority of the violence that has been perpetrated in the city, the perpetrators have been between the ages of 17 and 26 years old,” Gulley said.
To stop the violence, police have placed their priorities on getting guns off the streets, already confiscating 135 weapons so far this year. Police are also planning to put a squeeze on violent criminals with more checkpoints.
“If you come through, I’ll say a checkpoint, just be inconvenienced for a moment while we do what we do,” Roper said.
However, Bessemer is also battling a police shortage, currently down 30 officers.
“We might have to do things that we haven’t done before, you know, signing bonuses and packages when it comes to police officers,” Gulley said.
When it comes to taking back the streets of Bessemer from violent young gunmen, Gulley is calling on the community to join the battle.
“It’s going to take the parents, it’s going to take faith-based community, it’s going to take the school system,…it’s going to take all of us to rid our community of the violence that we have right now,” Gulley said.
Gulley said city officials are planning on meeting more w0ith faith leaders in order to help get the community to buy into the process, in addition to 0working with federal agents for stronger sentencing on gun crimes. In the meantime, Roper is working to recruit more officers in order to get a fully-staffed police force.