By Brian Livingston
Ever since he took over the role as chief of the Meridian Police Department, James Lee recognized the need for more officers on the streets of the city to provide a blue blanket of security for residents.
Meridian Mayor Percy Bland, during a recent news conference, also noted how the MPD is in need of officers, their pay and other initiatives to help curb the crime rate in the city.
"We are working toward getting 110 total officers in the MPD," Bland said. "We are in need of those men and women on the streets to give the residents the peace of mind they are entitled."
Bland said the recent number of crimes are down overall as the number of calls handled per shift. He said in order to keep this trend going downward, he and Lee have talked of getting the department up to full strength and paying the officers on a pay scale comparable to other agencies in the state.
"Chief Lee has told me we are losing officers to other agencies because we just don't pay enough," Bland said. "I'm going to work more closely with the members of the Meridian City Council to correct this."
Lee has said both of these issues are important. He reads reports each day that list the number of calls each shift receives and he knows the number of officers he has available on any given day.
"The officers are getting overworked and that leads to bad decisions," Lee said recently. "We have to have more officers and we have to be able to keep them on this force, not some other force in another city. To do that we have to pay them more."
Public safety will be a major topic between Bland and Lee in the coming weeks as the holiday seasons approach. Bland wants everyone, including consumers from outside Meridian, to feel like they will be safe when they come to shop.
"We will be increasing patrols in the mall areas and other portions of Meridian where shoppers will be concentrating," Bland said.
Another effort by Bland will be a partnership with Mississippi Power to get every street light working by the time the holiday season is here. Bland pointed out that criminals are like roaches in that they don't like well lit areas where someone can see them do their illegal deeds.
Bland said a program sparked by Lee should be in full operation by the middle of the month. The See Something, Say Something crime initiative is a program Lee is committed to implementing because it will take all the apprehensions of the caller out of the equation.
"The 311 number won't show a number or name so anyone with a tip on crime can call without fear of reprisals," Lee has said. "We get a good number of tips through the 911 Central Dispatch but we believe we would get so many more with this program."
Bland noted that to date the MPD has confiscated more than $400,000 in seizures through illegal drug cases this year. He said illegal drug activity is a big problem for the city and that he believes given the appropriate number of officers and the resources to help in this battle, Lee and the MPD will be able to put a serious dent in the drug traffic in Meridian.
By Brian Livingston
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