Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Birmingham Police Department (BPD) chief Scott Thurmond both warned parents on Thursday to keep an eye on their children amid the city's violent crime wave, which made 2022 one of the most violent years in Birmingham history and has claimed the lives of 16 children in the last 15 months.
Since March 20, Birmingham has experienced nine homicides. Two of them resulted in the deaths of a 16 and a 17-year-old.
Since January 1, the city has experienced 23 homicides, which Thurmond said was down from the 27 homicides Birmingham had experienced by this time last year.
Last year, Birmingham experienced 144 homicides in total, several resulting from stray bullets fired in drive-by-shootings. In January, MoneyGeek listed Birmingham as one of the most unsafe cities in the United States.
On Sunday, Birmingham police detected gunfire around Third Avenue Southwest in the Titusville community. They arrived at the scene to find a 17-year-old dead in the parking lot of an apartment complex.
Investigators believe the boy was injured in a shootout between two groups and dumped in the parking lot. When BPD officers arrived, he was unresponsive.
Officers detained an adult male suspect during a traffic stop and questioned him at BPD headquarters. After the interview, officers booked him in the Birmingham City Jail.
On Wednesday, BPD officers were called to the scene where gunshots could be heard. They found an unresponsive 16-year-old female suffering from an apparent gunshot wound on the sidewalk at the 3000 Block of Avenue F. Another female victim was found and treated for a graze wound.
In a Facebook post, Woodfin insisted that the gunfire that took the life of the 16-year-old girl was the result of an argument.
"Police will continue to enforce the law and seek justice," Woodfin said. "The city will continue to support community partners working to reduce violence over disputes. But we cannot do this alone."
Woodfin also warned parents to be aware of their children even during spring break. He said parents should also know who their children associate with.
"Be the support they need," he said. "It is a matter of life and death."
"There seems to be a lack of parenting in some of these cases," Thurmond said in a press conference on Thursday. "[P]arents have to play a vital role in their children's lives. They have to account for where they are at all times."
Thurmond said the 16-year-old homicide victim was out in the early morning hours with "three other juveniles" who had been drinking alcohol.
"They were out damaging a vehicle, and they get subsequently shot at," Thurmond said. "Where were the parents? Did the parents know where they were? Did the parents know they were out at 2:23 in the morning? I don't think so. That's a problem. Law enforcement can't be everywhere at one time. We're not babysitters for children. That's not our job."
"Last night's homicide was 100% avoidable," he added. "Had those children been in someone's home with someone watching after them, that young lady would still be alive today."
Thurmond also said the 17-year-old killed on Sunday was firing into a home and hit by return fire.
"There again, we have a 17-year-old engaging in illegal activity, possessing a firearm, and unfortunately, he lost his life," Thurmond explained. "This could've been prevented if [he] had not engaged in that activity."
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