Meridian Star

May 4, 2014

Chief notes number of guns off the streets

By Brian Livingston / blivingston@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

SAN DIEGO —  Meridian Police Department Chief James Lee doesn't believe his department can sweep the streets of Meridian clean of all guns.

    He is, however, trying make sure as many illegal guns as possible are taken off the streets.

    "The zone and quad system of patrol we have implemented over the past several months has done wonders in getting a great many guns off the streets," Lee said. "Our reaction times are shorter and we are gaining more officers every day, which equates to a saturation point.That saturation point is what will make it difficult of the criminal element to acquire, possess and use guns for violent acts."

    Lee said he took over as chief in July of 2013, 135 illegal guns have been taken off the streets of Meridian. Lee believes that is at the very least, 135 violent crimes that won't be committed.

    The gun statistics were gathered over a period from July 1, 2013 through March 27, 2014. A report provided by the department states that 51 guns of all types have been seized in connection with felony crimes. A total of 39 guns have been confiscated as a result of misdemeanor offenses and a further 33 guns have been found, either by city workers or citizens and then reported to the MPD.

    Lee said the main culprits to the rise in gun related crimes in Meridian can be traced to one or two small groups. He calls them the "wannabees", young men, mostly in their early to mid teens, who align themselves with some sort of group or gang.

    "Do we have gangs? Yes. Are they the kind that come from the larger cities like Los Angeles and Chicago or New York City? No. But they can be just as lethal at times," Lee said. "They affiliate themselves with the larger gangs and that is where all the problems come in."

    Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie has said some inmates at the Lauderdale County Adult Detention Facility in Meridian have to be kept separated because of their declared gang affiliation.

    Lee said the Latin Kings and the Gangster Disciples are the two most prominent gangs represented in Meridian. He questions whether any of these people have any real contact with other, more established "chapters" of these gangs. It is his belief they are just using the name.

    He pointed out that here in Meridian, the Latin Kings have a predominately white membership. He said that is totally counter to the real Latin Kings of Chicago that is made up of only Hispanic individuals and who are totally ruthless to protecting their name and turf.

    "Regardless of the name you use, the people who are in these groups need to understand that we will not rest until they are behind bars," Lee said. "If they continue to do the crimes they are doing, the robberies, assaults, the drive by shootings, and in some cases the injuring of people, we will eventually find them."

    Lee said the new open carry gun law passed last year from the Mississippi State Legislature isn't helping his cause. He said it is hard in a state such as Mississippi to tighten up on gun ownership and possession. He pointed out that hardly any of the guns confiscated by his officers was legally registered but rather was a gun that was stolen last week, last month or last year from a resident who was legally registered.

    "How do you stop the flow of guns to the streets? Tougher laws and more police is all I can think of and we don't have either of those. So my job, and the job of every officer here is to get as many of the guns off the streets as possible," Lee said.

    Lee said if anyone has information pertaining to a person having an illegal firearm to call 311. But if the caller deems the information an emergency situation, then call 911.