How Hot Spot Policing is Changing the Trend in One Dangerous Subdivision

On Marengo Drive, in the middle of Alabama Village, a women who’s sitting out on her porch with the front door cracked open behind her, gives a glimpse into what it’s like to live in one of Prichard’s most notorious subdivisions.

“It’s dangerous. You hear gunshots and you’ve got to get inside. It’s just like when you hear thunder…go inside. When you hear gunshots, you’ve got to go inside!”

She says she doesn’t want to tell us her name out of fear.  Just down the street is what, up until recently, was considered one of the most dangerous blocks in the city.

Hale Drive used to be a mecca for drug activity and robberies.  Criminals could easily hide in the overgrown brush and inside abandoned houses that line the street to evade any police officers patrolling down the main road.

“There were several homicides back in there…. robberies. They’d normally bring people back there and rob them because you don’t have any witnesses back there,” Prichard Police Chief Walter Knight gets out of the car we’re riding in and points to an open lot which used to be inaccessible. Knight says the mayor’s administration and him started tearing down the houses and clearing the brush in an effort to drive out the criminals who were using it as a safe haven.

“We used to get at least three calls a day here,” Knight says.”We probably get one call a week now from this area.”

This sort of tactic is often coined as “hotspot policing” because it focuses on a geographical location with a high 911 call volume. Several agencies around the country use it, including the Mobile County Sheriff’s office.

“If you look here around grand bay, that’s the highest concentration of crime in the south part of the county,” Sergeant Joe Mahoney says as he points to a map showing a saturation of calls. 
Mahoney says they’ve practiced hot spot policing for nearly a decade, even though it’s had different titles throughout the years. “I don’t think they’ve eliminated the hotspots, but they’re certainly not as active as they used to be,” Mahoney said.
Back In Prichard, Knight wants the same outcome. However, the city has another obstacle to overcome; a major image issue. All too often people associate Alabama Village with Prichard and forget that the city also encompasses the University of Mobile and the College Woods subdivision which are low crime areas near the Saraland border.
“Anytime you have a bad reputation in the area, it’s kind of hard to clear that. But, I think by doing this process here and by clearing all the criminal element out of it, This will bring back the heritage of this little community,” Knight said.

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