12 NEWS DEFENDERS: Behind the scenes of MPD - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

12 NEWS DEFENDERS: Behind the scenes of MPD

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

In 2013 in Montgomery there were 50 homicides -- the highest rate since 1980. At this time last year there had already been 10. So far this year, there has been only 1.

So what's different? You can't point to one thing and say that's why, but clearly some of what's now being done is working.

Certain neighborhoods have been at the center of Montgomery's crime and homicide problem – Crescent Road, North Pass, Garden Square.

With multiple gun deaths, drugs being sold and neighbors too scared to walk the streets of their own communities; MPD decided it was time to do something different.

"Number one we started with our gun initiative, and by December 31 of 2013 we had taken 575 guns off the street," said MPD Chief of Operations Ron Cook.

From there they kicked other parts of this new approach into gear, such as increasing patrols in trouble areas and tracking when the major players would get out of jail and back on the street.

And at the new SouthCentral Precinct, officers coming off shift talk to officers coming on about what has happened in the last few hours. At roll call, a game day decision is made on how to police specific areas. Plus, already being in their district when something happens, officers can be there in five minutes rather than 20.

But the police also know they can't solve Montgomery's crime problem by themselves.

"It seems for so long people were living in their own silos. I had my own thing right here and so did everyone else. But when we started going to community meetings, visiting some of our churches, going to community centers -- that really started to change the game a little bit. We saw people started to be more receptive to police," Cook said.

And then there are people like Miss Daisy Fann. The 83-year-old retired teacher from Virginia took the lead in transforming her North Pass neighborhood.

"I will say this about North Pass, from the little ones up to grown men, if I see their pants are down then I'll say ‘what's wrong with those pants?' They never give me no smart remark. They usually do exactly what I want them to do," Fann said.

Through the mayor's Neighborhood Issues Response Team, in neighborhoods like North Pass dilapidated homes that invite criminal activity were torn down.

"You have little kids walking the streets now, in contrast to last year when they might have been scared to go by a certain place. Or they were seeing somebody in the community that they were seeing as a negative role model. So now when you clean these areas up you don't have that negative role model pulling on all the other kids in the community," Cook said.

Getting to children when they are young and steering them away from negative role models and teaching them about alternatives to lifestyles they have seen in their communities is a centerpiece of the new holistic approach.

That's something Bishop Roosevelt Crawford is trying to do after talking the city into reopening the Bellingrath Community Center.

"When kids don't have anywhere to go for recreation, or anywhere to go to get formative instructions, they tend to do other things that are negative, and what we're trying to do is while they're here we're trying to instill those values in them that will take them further and it takes them off the street so they're not out there breaking into someone's home or breaking into their car. And we can have a hand on with them while they're here," Crawford said.

So how is the new approach working? There are no hard numbers yet, but Cook will tell you that things are changing in some of the worst parts of town. Miss Daisy will tell you that her neighborhood has been transformed.

"I have seen a lot of the young people that we serve, they begin to show a level of respect where they used to be disrespectful, but now they're beginning to watch themselves and catch themselves, and are beginning to learn that that is not the way to be. And we're getting some favorable reports from the parents. Some of the parents are beginning to see a difference in their kids," Crawford said.

Copyright 2014 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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