Crime on the Increase in Southside
If you know anyone who lives or works on Southside, then you probably know someone who knows someone who was robbed this year.
For the past six months, Birmingham’s Five Points South and Lakeview districts have been plagued by a series of armed robberies and muggings. In July, Matt Whitson left the Upside Down Plaza at Pickwick Plaza in Five Points South on a Sunday evening around 11 p.m. As he descended the stairs next to Cosmo’s Pizza on Magnolia Avenue, two black males approached. He assumed they were panhandling. “Being the nice dude that I am, I already had my hand in my pocket to give them money if they asked for it,” Whitson recently recalled. “Instead, one dude pulled out a gun and put it in my stomach, and the two of them forced me back up the stairs.” Whitson handed over his wallet and pocket change. The assailants asked for more, so Whitson offered up his keys, cell phone, and cigarette lighter.
Whitson said that Birmingham police arrived “almost immediately.” However, he later complained in an interview that descriptions of his stolen items were not accurate on the incident report.
On Sunday, June 25, at about 10:50 p.m., Kristie Pickett and a female friend were leaving The Garage, a popular bar located between Highland Avenue and The Nick that as been praised by GQ magazine as one of the “top ten bars in the world worth flying to.” Pickett’s automobile was parked approximately 50 yards down the street from the bar in front of an apartment complex. She had just unlocked the passenger door and was walking around to the driver’s side when the two heard running footsteps behind them. Suddenly, two black males appeared next to her car, one slapping his hand on the vehicle. “One of them said, ‘I’m not going to hurt you,’” said Pickett, who re-locked her car and began to scream to attract the attention of patrons outside The Garage. The tall, thin robber pulled out a pistol and she put her hands in the air. The assailant demanded her purse, which she surrendered, as did her companion. Garage customers came running as the thugs dashed off with the women’s purses.
Pickett complained that it took between five and 10 minutes for police to arrive [the Southside precinct is three blocks away] and noted that the squad car arrived without emergency lights flashing. The police told Pickett that the reason it took so long is because the 11 p.m. shift had just come on duty.
On August 21, a white male arrived at Bailey’s Pub in Five Points South after parking in front of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church next door. He noticed a white male and white female standing near a bag on the ground, its contents strewn about. He entered Bailey’s at midnight to meet a friend, who did not appear. Less than five minutes later, he left the bar. Suddenly, he felt a gun placed to the back of his head. It was the man he had noticed with the woman minutes earlier in front of the church. The woman stood nearby. The victim guessed that the pair were in their mid- to late 20s. He said Bailey’s employees told him that the woman had been seen panhandling and possibly “hooking” in the area recently. The victim added that the bar’s employees had begun patrolling the area themselves, which they said had resulted in a reduction in muggings in the high-crime area.
Perhaps the most dramatic mugging this past summer was a brazen assault that occurred on July 26, in broad daylight, during peak traffic hours on 20th Street. A white male parked his pickup truck on 14th Avenue South near the entrance of Cobb Lane at 5:30 p.m. As he shut off his engine and placed his keys on the seat, preparing to exit the vehicle, a black male who looked to be in his mid-20s appeared at the driver’s window, asking for directions. The vehicle was locked but the windows were down. When the victim responded that he couldn’t help, a second male appeared at the passenger window, leaned into the truck, and pointed a gun. The victim told the robbers they could have whatever they wanted and offered his wallet to the man with the gun. Meanwhile, the assailant on the driver’s side punched the victim, cutting his face as the other attacker with the gun ran off with the wallet.
At that point, the victim opened his door quickly, slamming it into the remaining robber, then falling onto the ground while exiting the truck. The assailant began kicking the victim repeatedly in the body and face, but the victim somehow grabbed the robber and began punching him, finally managing to restrain him and call the police. He kept the assailant subdued until police arrived.
Six weeks ago, McDaniel Wyatt, a bartender at The Oasis, in the Lakeview District, was closing the bar at 4:45 on a Friday morning with bartender Kelly Pierce and another worker. Pierce was in the restroom when a black male in a ski mask entered the bar through a rear window. The intruder knew where the cash register was (Wyatt assumed the intruder had cased the bar earlier) and pointed a .38-caliber revolver at Wyatt and demanded that he put the register’s cash in a plastic bag. Wyatt then tossed the keys to the assailant, telling him that he was going into the restroom and to take what he wanted. “I had already put most of the money in the safe, so he didn’t get much from the register,” said the bartender. “The guy looked like he hadn’t done too many robberies, and I was scared he was going to shoot himself in the foot.” The incident lasted a little over three minutes, according to Wyatt. Pierce said she stayed in the restroom in order not to scare the man, which might have prompted him to start shooting. Wyatt said it was the first robbery in the five years that he’s been at The Oasis, but added that crime has increased “dramatically” recently. “All the employees here have had their cars broken into in the past year,” he added.
According to Wyatt, the police said Silvertron Cafe, which is not far from Lakeview, was robbed the same night. Silvertron management denied that any incidents have occurred there, however.
Repeated calls to the Birmingham Police Department’s public information officer to confirm events in this story were not returned. &