Meridian Star

November 18, 2012

Crime rates up in some areas

By Brian Livingston /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     From 2006 through 2011 the number of nonviolent crimes in Meridian and Lauderdale County have risen somewhat, with spikes some years in violent crimes.

    "We see property crimes, such as burglaries and thefts and even car thefts, surge throughout the year and that is reflected in the report numbers," said Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie. "In most cases, such as with thefts and burglaries, the majority of the crimes are done by one person or a group of people who suddenly decide to go on a spree."

    Meridian Police Department Chief James Reed, who took over the department in July, said he is in the process of putting together information on the city's crime rate.

    "I certainly want to get an idea of what has occurred in the past and how we can make Meridian a safer community for our citizens," Reed said.

    Although murders garner more attention, it is the frequency of property crimes that effects more people, officials say. Burglaries in the county gradually inched up in number from 247 in 2006 to 342 in 2011. Likewise, in Meridian the number of burglaries have also gone up, from 776 in 2006 to 1,011 in 2011.

    Lt. Dean Harper of the MPD, commander of the department's Criminal Investigation Division, said citizens can do a great deal to curb crime in their particular areas.

    "In the cases of burglaries and thefts residents can do all they can to keep valuables out of sight, especially in their cars, of those who want to steal them," Harper said. "Lock your doors and utilize outside lights to help discourage anyone from wanting to take things you have worked so hard to obtain."

    But it is the violent crimes such as murders that gets people's attention.

    The county averages one murder per year. So far in 2012 the county has had just one murder. In 2010, the county recorded seven murders. LCSD officials said that was an especially difficult year. During 2009 and 2011 there were no murders in the county.

    In both 2008 and 2010 the Meridian Police Department recorded seven murders inside the city limits. Two to three murders a year is typical. So far this year, there have been seven murders inside Meridian city limits.     

    In three cities with comparable populations, Biloxi (population 44,000), Southhaven (49,000) and Hattiesburg (53,000), the frequency of murders is along the line of Meridian. At its highest point, Hattiesburg in 2006 saw 10 murders while in 2008 Southaven noted six. In 2009 Biloxi had five murders. Most years the cities averaged three murders a year.

    In comparison, Jackson, which has three times the population of Meridian, has about 40 murders per year.

    The frequency of aggravated assaults, those incidents in which a weapon of some type is used to do bodily harm on another individual, show more constant trends in both the county and city. The county sees on average 17 aggravated assaults each year as opposed to 70 annually in the city in a six-year span.

    There is typically a spike in criminal activity between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, Reed stated in an e-mail.

    "Again, I want to remind the community to make sure you lock your cars when you get out. Don't leave your keys in your car, or your car running when you get out.  If you are shopping make sure you lock your purchases in your trunk, or cover them up. Do not leave them exposed," Reed wrote.

    "However, we will respond to all complaints as expeditiously as possible. We will focus our law enforcement resources on various high crime areas. In conjunction with the patrol officers already on the street, we will utilize our Direct Action Response Team (DART) Team, Dog Team and Reserve Offices. We will also use other available law enforcement resource initiatives such as our Click-it or Ticket Campaign, DUI Units, and Road Side Safety Checks.