MOBILE, Ala (WKRG) — Mayor Sandy Stimpson says he takes responsibility for Mobile’s most deadly year in two decades.

“The Mayor’s not dodging it, or running from it,” he told News 5 in an exclusive interview. “We wake up every single day trying to thwart crime.”

51 people were murdered in Mobile in 2021.

The mayor says the biggest reason for the uptick in violent crime is COVD-19. Stimpson says the pandemic forced Metro Jail to release a number of inmates. More importantly, he says, the virus closed the  courts and created a backlog of criminal cases and has left even more criminals on the streets.

Stimpson, though, says he has taken concrete steps to offset those impacts. The City has contributed $1.5 million to the Circuit Court system to set up virtual courtrooms. Last month, Stimpson traveled to Montgomery and met with Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker to try to get approval for a ninth Circuit Court judge in Mobile. Plus, Stimpson says, he successfully lobbied the Alabama legislature for the passage of “Aniah’s Law” which allows judges to deny bond to people arrested for murder and other serious crimes. That law will go before voters statewide later this year for approval.

Stimpson says the other factor that contributed to Mobile’s rise in violent crime was the social justice movement of 2020 that followed the police shooting of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“It demoralized police,” Stimpson said. “In Mobile, we’ve lost 107 officers in a year. I mean that’s unprecedented. And what it’s also done is embolden the bad guys.”

Stimpson says it’s no surprise that criminals now won’t hesitate to shoot at each other in busy public places. In 2021, a midday shootout happened on  Dauphin Street near Interstate-65. There were shootings in the parking lot of Bel Air Mall and at a high school football game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

“When you think about why would someone do that, and not under the cloak of darkness, it’s because they’ve become emboldened,” Stimpson said. “Because we haven’t been able to have court and put these guys away. And also because of the societal mood toward policing. It’s created a sense of superiority in some of our criminals that they feel nobody’s going to do anything about it.”

Stimpson says Mobile is not alone, that violent crime is up in almost every major U.S. city since the pandemic began. Still he accepts responsibility for the spate of violent crime.

“I understand I have to use the influence of the mayor’s office – even in areas where I’m not responsible.”

Stimpson says the average law abiding citizen in Mobile should not fear becoming a victim of violent crime.

“I think by and large, the majority of citizens in Mobile should feel safe because of all the things we’ve been doing and are going to do,” the Mayor said.