With a dozen murders this month, Mobile Police have brought back a controversial tactic – so-called “safety” checkpoints on area streets.
Officers stop cars to check seat belt use and insurance, but they’re really looking for guns and wanted suspects.
“It’s allowed us to get a few guns and bad actors off the streets,” said Public Safety Director Rich Landolt.
Last week a checkpoint near the RV Taylor homes on Broad Street netted 25 arrests and three seized guns.
“If the results are that they are getting weapons off the streets and getting people with outstanding warrants, then you have to look at the positives against the negatives,” said City Council President Gina Gregory.
The negatives, according to many, are that law abiding citizens are inconvenience or harassed and that the checkpoints may target minority neighborhoods.
“They’ll find something in any neighborhood they go in,” said City Council Vice President Fred Richardson who opposes the checkpoints.
“We got meth labs in the western part of our city and we don’t stop all of the citizens out there,” he said.” We go find out who is operating this meth lab and we take them out. We need to find out who is shooting these guns and take them out. Whether they have a driver’s license or not has no relationship to a shooting. If you don’t have your seat belt on there’s no relationship to a shooting.”
Richardson says the checkpoints further erode trust between police and people living in minority communities.
But councilman C.J. Small who represents the area where the checkpoint was held last week says “it’s worth the inconvenience if criminals and guns are taken off the streets.” Landolt says that community leaders have actually requested the checkpoints in their neighborhoods.
The checkpoints were common place under former Mayor Sam Jones and previous Chief Micheal Williams. Mayor Sandy Stimpson previously opposed their use but has now changed his mind.
“I oppose the widespread use of checkpoints, but I support Chief Barber’s plan to use them in targeted areas as part of a comprehensive strategy to fight crime,” the mayor told News 5 in a statement.
Landolt says more checkpoints will be conducted in the near future. Police are required by law to announce in advance when and where the checkpoints will take place.