Federal and local law enforcement announced indictments Monday for 71 people accused of violent crime and illegal weapons possession in Birmingham and north Alabama. Some of those arrested also had drug charges.
The indictments and arrests are part of ramped up efforts to get illegal guns off the streets through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative. That program pours extra money into crime fighting and helps law enforcement agencies collaborate to identify and arrest violent felons.
Over the past two months, authorities in north Alabama confiscated 140 weapons during arrests, including several handguns capable of firing rifle rounds. David Hyche, assistant special agent in charge with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, says bullets from those weapons can go through multiple protective vests.
“If my people learn of an individual who is purchasing multiple, rifle-round-firing handguns, and they are associated with a criminal group, we share that intelligence,” Hyche says. “We don’t want to hold on to a piece of intelligence that can save an officer’s life.”
Most of the 71 people indicted had multiple prior arrests, Hyche says.
It’s been a revolving door for some felons, but U.S. Attorney Jay Town says when federal charges stick, people are in prison longer because they serve about 85 percent of their sentences.
Interim Birmingham Police Chief Henry Irby says he’s pleased with what these indictments mean for city residents.
“They don’t deserve to have to hide in their bathtubs when gunfire is ringing out,” Irby says. “They do not deserve to see violence in their neighborhoods day after day.”
Town says this operation is not a one-time event, and there will be more indictments in the future focused on reducing violent crime.