MONTGOMERY — Mayor Steven Reed held a town hall on Tuesday, during which citizens had the opportunity to voice concerns over public safety, infrastructure, housing and other community issues.

The event was held at the Watson Robbins Taylor Center on Auburn University at Montgomery's campus. "Reverand" Candace Frazer of The Church of the Ascension Episcopal Church moderated the discussion.  

The forum was touted as an opportunity to hear from Reed on the city's accomplishments thus far in 2024 and what he expected going forward. Reed has made an effort in recent months to speak in more public forums as residents have increasingly cried out for city leadership to address escalating crime.

After an opening statement, Reed answered questions from the public, both those in attendance and those online.

Reed began his opening statement by describing the economic boons brought to the capital city through housing development, grants, and other businesses setting up shop, including Meta Platforms' planned $800 million data center.

"When we think about the fact that we have received over $50 million from the federal government just this year alone, capped by an announcement today of $16.6 million in grant funding for electric vehicles as well as that infrastructure," Reed said.

He continued, "That comes from the federal transit authority, but I certainly want to also highlight the $36.6 million that we received earlier for the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights Trail. So, when you consider just those two entities alone, that is a significant investment in our infrastructure. That's significant investment in parts of the city that have not had this type of impact investing. That leads to other jobs. That leads to other developments."

Reed then shifted to the most pressing issue in the city: public safety.

Most questions related to the escalating crime in the city, with citizens expressing concern about a multitude of issues surrounding public safety.

One resident, Zach Buckner, asked Reed how the state's removal of pistol permit requirements impacted the city's crime.  

In 2022, lawmakers voted to remove the previous requirement for lawful citizens to purchase a permit before carrying a concealed weapon on their person or vehicle.

Reed and others in the city have been quick to point to the removal of the permitless carry legislation as partially to blame for growing violent crime, despite pushback from those saying Reed's claims are merely a copout.

SEE: Montgomery lawmakers push against Mayor Reed's narrative blaming permitless carry for escalating crime

SEE ALSO: 'Take some responsibility': State Sen. Bell rips Montgomery Mayor Reed for blaming constitutional carry, legislature for city's violent crime wave

Reed answered Buckner's question by claiming that removing permitless carry "had a significant impact" on the city's crime.

"I'm part of the Alabama Big Ten Mayors Association, and so we meet with the mayors of the ten largest cities in this state," Reed said.

He continued, "We were across the board, bipartisan agreement, against that legislation because we understood the challenge that our police departments are facing already, and we understood it would make it harder for us not only to take guns out of the hands of people who should not have them, it would make it a lot more encouraging for those who feel like they have to carry a gun. So it's had a detrimental impact certainly on gunshots, which is what we get a lot of feedback from many of you about, just the gunshots, the noise itself; the danger of the gunshots."

"But certainly the second thing is, it plays into the psyche when you're talking to some of our people who are probably most at risk, if you will, or most on the lines of why they carry a gun. And I've been privy to have some conversations offline, through leaders here, with people who are in this space, and they just feel like, 'the other person has a gun, so I need to have a gun. And that's unfortunate that we are in this situation."

Another attendee asked Reed if there was interest in holding parents accountable for juveniles who commit crimes since that age group is responsible for a significant number of crimes in Montgomery.

"That's one that has been discussed," Reed said. "Let me say this: to answer your question, yes. I'm open to that discussion. I've expressed that to city council members who brought it up. Where we have run into some pause is, legally, what can we do? Okay. What can the city do legally now? I don't mean what ordinance can we pass. I think if we probably did it in front of the council, the council would probably, without legal concern, probably would say yes. The question is, can you legally do that? And to be honest, I've gotten answers on different sides. Now, it may very well be that we have to just do it and find out later, you know, that we're wrong. I didn't say we will, it just may that. We certainly are at a point where we believe parents have to be more involved and engaged with knowing where their young people are and, more importantly, what they're doing and who they are doing it with. And it can't be up to the men and women in blue to be mothers and fathers in the streets and teaching them that."

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