I am writing regarding a Downtown Newsmagazine article titled "Police departments lacking transparency," published in the February issue.
The article states, ".. we, as a press organization which works as representatives of the public, are so concerned about the lack of communication and transparency from the Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Hills, and at times Birmingham police departments." The article further states, "While we do receive some crime reports from the city of Birmingham, they are minimal - and often well after the fact. The January 4 downtown heinous and scary mugging and purse snatching involving a business owner was reported over a week after it happened – not because they had to keep it secret due to an investigation, either. For both other business owners and shoppers, that was news that should have been shared, pronto."
The City of Birmingham and the Birmingham Police Department take great pride in community engagement and transparency. Our efforts to ensure we have a well-informed community are second to none, especially when it involves matters of public safety. The city utilizes multiple communication platforms to ensure we reach as many community members as possible. In an effort to be even more transparent, the Police Department utilizes a crime mapping and reporting website, Crimedar.com, to post crime incidents taking place within the city. Contrary to the allegations in your article, these posts provide detailed descriptions of incidents and are posted weekly, unlike most agencies. Additionally, information is routinely posted on both the City of Birmingham and Birmingham Police Department's Facebook pages.
I am very disappointed that the City of Birmingham was listed among other communities for lack of transparency, despite our extensive efforts to keep our community informed. In fact, your description of the alleged delay in making people aware of the incident that took place on January 4, 2023 could not be further from the truth.
The incident you referenced occurred in the evening hours of January 4, 2023 and was posted on both the city's and the police department's Facebook pages the next day, January 5, 2023. Further, when the suspect was arrested on Friday, January 13, 2023, the police department distributed a press release that same evening, which was sent to a Downtown Publications staff member and also posted via the Police Department and city's social media channels.
If you think we can do better, let me know how. I encourage you to continue to pursue transparency in crime reporting. Non-transparency of criminal activity reporting may create a sense of false security. No one wishes to read about the crimes occurring in their community, however reporting crimes informs our citizenry who will demand that we do better. Communities who are non-transparent are failing in their public safety mission. We need the public to be our eyes and ears, and they can
only do that when they know what is going on.
In the future please feel free to reach out for clarification regarding our communication channels and distribution timeline. Your efforts to fact check before criticizing a department for something they have worked hard to achieve would be appreciated going forward.
Thomas M. Markus
Birmingham City Manager
(Publisher's note: While we acknowledge receiving a press notice when the suspect was caught, a more effective approach would have been to send out a release to the media and store owners when the incident occurred rather than assuming a Facebook posting is sufficient.