Are You Safe?
 Civilians Take on Birmingham’s Crime Rate

By: Ariel Cochran

A picturesque view of downtown from Railroad Park.

A picturesque view of downtown from Railroad Park.

On a rainy day a group of youthful, diverse faces as they share pieces of their imagination through mapmaking. Each child concocted some country of their own and designed their own map and flag. The innocence and brightness of the ocean-adventure theme building, the headquarters for the nonprofit Desert Island Supply Company (DISCo), held a stark difference from the gloomy, tough area of Woodlawn, a small community outside Birmingham.

“I feel very safe because I ride my bike to Woodlawn every day,” said Lillis Taylor, DISCo’s programming director and Birmingham native. “For a year I have not encountered any trouble and the locals are quite friendly. “

Woodlawn, once a prosperous 1950s neighborhood, is now viewed as a run down, troubled part of town by many.  From, on a scale of 1 out of 100, where 1 is the most dangerous, Birmingham’s crime index is rated 1. This means that Birmingham is safer than 1 percent of other cities with populations over 100,000.  According to, Birmingham is number 2 for property crimes for cities in the larger population category.  Overall, there is an upward trend in crime and is expected to grow higher based on 11 years of data collection.

Statistics state that annually, Birmingham with a population of 212,413, has had over 54 murders, 182 rape incidents, 1,011 robberies, and 1,916 assaults.  The numbers may seem like an understatement based on popular belief, especially with reality television or documentaries painting gruesome pictures of Birmingham such as The First 48, a documentary series that follows the day-to-day uncensored lives of detectives. Surprisingly, almost every other episode of The First 48, Birmingham is highlighted. Although First 48’s contract has expired from Birmingham, the issue of crime and its publicity still remains.

I talked to a series of people whose names I have withheld about their take on Birmingham’s crime rate

A dilapidated house sits in an un-manicured lot in Woodlawn.

A dilapidated house sits in an un-manicured lot in Woodlawn.

and safety.

Do you feel safe in your neighborhood or on the street?
“Yes.” Laura Anderson (archivist)
“We feel safe inside this building, but on the street, no.” Shannon Kirby

What has law enforcement of Birmingham done? I continued my interview with the teacher with whom I previously spoke and other people throughout the Woodlawn and downtown area of Birmingham.

“There is a lot of activity and movement in this area, although the community has a volunteer ‘neighborhood’ watch.”Lillis Taylor
“The police are doing the best they can, but I feel they could do better in Woodlawn.” Shannon Kirby
“Here in downtown, the police are doing a good job. I see patrol cars driving around.”

Have you ever felt unsafe?
“I was driving one day and witnessed a shooting.”Veronica Wiggins
“I feel safe at night when I ride my bike home, although being a woman and not very strong, it is something to worry about. Lillis Taylor
“No, I have felt safe.” Laura

Have you ever taken law into you own hands?
“I have witnessed a man shooting an intruder with a pellet gun,” the woman chuckles, “ he never came back again! But no, I have not taken the law into my own hands; that’s dangerous!” Laura

How do you feel about Birmingham’s crime rate?
“There is a need for more youth opportunities in the community.” Marie King
“My organization can only do so much, we need more organizations to help the youth and the people.” Marie King
“Woodlawn is making a small comeback because people are investing in the area, then again people are investing in Birmingham more than ever before.” Veronica Wiggins

Are Birmingham citizens truly safe? From an article on, in a 2010 record, With renovations to areas of Birmingham and recreational additions to the city such as the Region’s ballpark, Railroad Park, YWCA building in Woodlawn, the DISco. Organization building in Woodlawn, Uptown district, and much more, Birmingham is seeing a slow decline in crime and small steps toward improvement.


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