CENTER POINT, Ala. (WIAT) — The city of Center Point will soon decide which it can afford: the cost of crime or the financial burden of a new police department. Following community concerns over safety and crime, the city is seriously considering the latter.
In 2020, the Department of Justice completed its analysis of the city, customizing a plan to reduce crime. The main suggestion in the report was community policing. On Thursday, Center Point city council voted to conduct a feasibility study in creating its own police department. The city is currently policed by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office. The first stage of the study costs $15,000.
“Once we get those results, we’ll make them public, then the council will decide whether a police force is on the agenda or not going to be a possibility,” said Center Point Mayor Bobby Scott.
The city has six Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies on contracting. Roughly $580,000 is allocated from the city budget to pay for the officers. Some Center Point residents say they’d like to see more law enforcement officers and a quicker response time to calls. Chris Jameson, who lives in Center Point, said it’s not uncommon to hear gunshots in his neighborhood. He said he thinks a police department would do the city good if it’s something Center Point can afford.
“If the city can afford it, I think we need our own police department, but if it’s going to bankrupt the city and we can’t afford it, then I think we should look into getting more Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputies,” said Jameson.
As city leaders assess their options, they can look to fellow Jefferson County city Graysville, who formed a part-time police department in September 2019.
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At the last public safety meeting, Arlene Cosper shared similar concerns over gunshots.
“There was, at minimum, 60 gunshots coming from a house that is basically diagonal to us,” said Cosper.” Sometimes it takes 10 to 15 minutes for that call to go out.”
The 2020 Metro Area Crime Report showed murders have gone down roughly 43% in Center Point since 2019.
“It shows major crimes in the Center Point Area down significantly in all major areas; homicides, burglaries, robberies, and assault,” said Chief Deputy David Agee with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
The city’s police department feasibility study will be completed by late March.
“[It will show} an idea of what we need to police center point, number of officers, budgetary items that we may not know that we need or need to consider,” said Mayor Scott. “So, what we don’t want to do is create a police department and find ourselves in the hole.”
The city of Center Point will be holding another public safety meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 9. The mayor said he and law enforcement would like residents’ input, which can be submitted through the city’s Facebook page.