Mayor Hall lays out plans for 2021, addressing crime and downtown improvements
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Alexandria Mayor Jeff Hall held his first community briefing of the year on Tuesday morning at the Public Safety Complex. He highlighted many areas of focus for his administration in the new year, including addressing public safety concerns and making improvements downtown.
Mayor Hall began by noting many of the challenges of 2020, such as the coronavirus pandemic and Hurricanes Laura and Delta, but said a new year brings, “new opportunity and a spirit of optimism.”
“Turning the page on the calendar didn’t stop COVID-19, it didn’t bring an end to crime, it didn’t fix the blighted properties we have to deal with, and it did not repair the Johnny Downs Sports Complex,” he said.
On the list of top priorities for Mayor Hall and his administration for 2021 are crime and policing.
News Channel 5 reported in December 2020 that APD had 36 vacancies for officers, including the Chief of Police position. Mayor Hall said the city is advertising for candidates to take the exam to become chief and hopes to have the position filled as soon as possible.
“It is critical that we bring in a leader with the knowledge and experience to move our department forward and be responsive for the needs of our citizens,” Mayor Hall said.
The next police academy begins Monday, January 25.
Hall also commended officers for their work to prevent crime over the past year, saying that, “overall crime decreased 16 percent compared to the 2019 numbers.”
The mayor noted the city saw fewer thefts, burglaries, rapes and assaults in 2020.
“In the seven major crime areas that we track, we saw an improvement in over half,” Mayor Hall said. “That’s a testament to the men and women of our police department and I thank them for all of their hard work.”
Mayor Hall acknowledges more work is still needed in the area of police safety because homicides, robberies and auto thefts saw increases.
“Most concerning is the spike in homicides, which were up 140 percent over last year’s numbers,” Mayor Hall said. “We’re seeing reports from across the state and nation that homicides in 2020 were near record levels all over.”
There were 24 homicides in 2020 compared to 10 in 2019.
“Just adding police officers won’t solve the homicide problem,” the mayor said. “We need citizens to understand violence is not the answer. Every time you have a disagreement, you don’t have to reach for a gun to settle your differences.”
The Mayor said Alexandria, as well as other parts of the nation, are grappling with the struggles and challenges of illegal drug use.
“When we investigate local crimes, from the homicides to robberies, we often find the root cause to be drug-related,” he said.
Hall also mentioned APD making arrests following a string of robberies that plagued MacArthur Drive businesses towards the end of last year.
Mayor Hall also discussed the correlation between crime rates, blighted properties, panhandling and economic development.
“Bringing more jobs to Alexandria would mean more opportunity, but attracting new business to Alexandria means we do everything we can to make Alexandria as attractive as possible,” Mayor Hall said. “That means creating a community where businesses feel their employees are safe and happy.”
Mayor Hall said addressing crime, blighted properties and panhandling can lead to economic growth. Another big plan on his agenda is revamping the Weiss and Goldring building downtown.
“That building is a significant asset to downtown and we need to put it back to active use,” Hall said.
The city plans to seek requests for proposal over the next coming months. Last year, the city tried the same thing with hopes of turning the building into a multi-use facility that could provide housing, a grocery space or serve an educational purpose.
The city also plans to make improvements to Red River river front and the amphitheater.
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