TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - A shooting last weekend on Tuscaloosa’s popular “Strip” has prompted city officials to plan security measures during and after Saturday’s University of Alabama game against Tennessee.
Thousands of fans gather along the stretch of University Boulevard that’s home to bars and restaurants on Alabama home game days. That was no exception last Saturday night and into early Sunday morning, when a gunman chased down another man and shot him in front of a crowded bar.
Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steve Anderson said Wednesday, in a video posted to the city’s Facebook page, that additional officers will be stationed on the Strip, which will be pedestrian-only Saturday night and into Sunday morning. More than two dozen officers were stationed in the area when the shooting occurred Saturday.
Part of University Boulevard will be closed to traffic until after the bars close, around 2:30 a.m. Sunday. Game shuttles and traffic won’t be affected and signage will direct motorists to alternate routes.
“We want to prevent the number of vehicles allowed in the area, and see if we can’t get a better handle and control of the crowd,” he told Mayor Walt Maddox in a video posted on Facebook.
Maddox and Anderson both said that violent crime is down in the city, compared to 2016. People’s instant access to events as they’re unfolding and posted to social media may give the perception that crime is on the rise, they said.
Property crimes are, however, increasing, Anderson said. There are more guns on the street, he said, that are stolen from unlocked vehicles.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of vehicle break-ins,” Anderson said. “We’ve been begging and pleading with people not to store guns in vehicles, it’s not a safe place to store a handgun.”
The shooting early Sunday happened when a man jumped from a passing vehicle and began to fight with another man who was standing on the street, police have said. The shooter returned to the vehicle, where his brother passed him a handgun through the passenger window. Together, the three men involved have had more than 350 interactions with Tuscaloosa police, he said.
It’s both demoralizing and frustrating, Anderson said, for officers who continue to arrest the same suspects. He and Maddox both said overcrowding within the state’s corrections system has led to many offenders being sentenced to community corrections supervision or alternative sentencing programs that allow them back on the streets.
“Oftentimes when we have crime in our community, we tend to focus on the police department,” Maddox said. “But the police department really only ultimately responds to symptoms. The big issues we’re facing are education attainment, job opportunities and treating substance abuse problems.”
Information from: The Tuscaloosa News, https://www.tuscaloosanews.com
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