By Brian Livingston / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
The recent shooting death of a young man in Meridian prompted Meridian Mayor Cheri Barry Tuesday afternoon to ask residents to become more involved in helping police combat the crime and violence that has persisted this year.
During the press conference Barry held in the Meridian City Council chambers on the third floor of City Hall, Barry said this is an urgent time that calls for decisive action.
"We are asking the citizens to get involved in reporting crime, in being the eyes and ears of your community, to help the police to stop this violence," Barry said, as she stood flanked by Meridian Police Department Chief James Reed and other members of the department's administrative team. "It will only be by working together that we can make a difference."
Barry called this press conference on the heels of the city's seventh murder this year. Terrianda Collins, 21, was standing outside a house in the 2100 block of 15th Avenue at 10:18 p.m. Saturday when he was shot and killed in what officials are labeling a drive-by shooting. Collins was hit multiple times and the car he sought refuge behind was hit multiple times as well. Collins was transported to Rush Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Reed said the investigation is ongoing and that no arrests have been made so far in the case.
Collins' family members blamed the shooting on gang activity in the community.
"I'm tired of it," said Marie Collins, who is Collins' grandmother. "They know there are gang members here in Meridian but they pretend they don't exist."
Reed said there is no information that this latest incident was related to gang activity.
According to arrest records at the Lauderdale County Adult Detention Facility, since 2010, 87 people who were brought into the jail said they were members of the Gangsta Disciples. Sheriff Billy Sollie explained that during processing all those arrested are asked if they have any gang affiliation in order to keep them segregated from each other.
"Not all of these people are from Lauderdale County or Meridian, but the majority of them are," Sollie said. "A few come through our jail on transport to other locations."
Records show that there were also 47 Vice Lords, 45 Simon City Royals, 19 Arian Nation and one Hells Angel listed among those kept at the jail during that period.
Barry said the MPD is made up of strong, professional and dedicated police officers and that citizens should see an increased police presence in their neighborhoods. Reed said he is pleased to have the full backing of the mayor's office and that the department will utilize all of its resources to combat this problem.
In light of the upcoming holiday shopping season, Barry said the MPD is committed to providing safety throughout Meridian. She said she welcomes everyone from outside Meridian to come and shop here just as they've done in years past.
"There is crime in every community," Barry said. "But we will do everything, with the help of the residents, to make the last couple of months the safest in Meridian."