West Alabama leaders discuss tackling crime

The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama gathered business and city leaders Wednesday for a candid discussion on something affecting everyone at some point or another: Crime.

It was the first of the Chamber’s Next Level Series, educational forums focused on topics important to the community. Other events will focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, infrastructure and public education, among other topics.

“We’re trying to build out the next strategic plan for the Chamber to figure out where the business community can best adjust to help serve all portions of the community,” said businessman Tripp Powell.

Members of area law enforcement agencies and the Tuscaloosa County District Attorney’s Office were in attendance for the panel discussion, and topics included repeat offenders, juvenile crime, recruitment and retention for law enforcement agencies, and offenders who are struggling with mental health issues.

“Mental health is a big issue for Tuscaloosa County, whether you’re in Northport, Tuscaloosa or the county,” said Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Byron Waid. “Its something we’re hoping to make some progress on.”

Northport Police Chief Gerald Burton said they’ve been making headway, and part of that was getting officers the training to handle residents undergoing a mental health crisis.

“We have great law enforcement in Tuscaloosa County,” Waid said. “We all work extremely close together.  We talk to each other daily.  I think we have something unique here.”

Burton said a large portion of the crime problem is coming from teenagers.

“That’s just a problem with supervision of your kids,” Burton said. “Parents should know where their kids are.”

The next session on diversity, equity and inclusion is Feb. 23 in the multipurpose room of Shelton State Community College’s C.A. Fredd Campus, 3401 Martin Luther King Blvd. in Tuscaloosa, starting at 3:30 p.m.

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