By Brian Livingston / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
Meridian Police Department Chief James Lee was fighting off the early stages of a cold but that didn't deter him Thursday night from getting up in front of a group of Meridian citizens and telling them they need to stand up to crime.
It was the first of two information/education sessions in which he outlines the "See Something, Say Something" crime initiative.
"Just like our nation's military who defends this nation, the police are here to defend you against criminals," Lee said. "But we need help. We need you. And this new campaign to get your involvement is why we are here."
"See Something, Say Something" is based on a 311 phone number that eliminates the fear many people have of being identified if they call police about suspicious or criminal activity in their neighborhoods. The call, unlike a 911 call, does not show an address or name of the caller. That is the point, Lee said.
"All we need is your information," he said. "We aren't interested in who you are or where you live. We want to catch the bad guys."
Betty Reed, sitting in the front with two active grandchildren at her side, wants to know how the system will work. She didn't know anything about the 311 phone number but once she was told how it was to work, she liked the idea.
"I'm just worried about my grandchildren and anything that will get the crime and violence off the streets so they can be safe is good for me," Reed said.
Judge Veldore Young sees too many young people come through her court. She said she sees how they don't value life and liberty; how they don't seem to have any morals.
"I'm interested in knowing what the future holds for the youth of our city," Young said. "I also wanted to see how many people showed up because this is up to them. The chief is giving them the tool. I wonder if they will use it."
With a late arriving crowd, only about 50 parents, some with children or grandchildren in tow and some on their own, attended the session held in the auditorium of the Boys and Girls Club of East Mississippi. Terrance Davis, who works with community development with the City of Meridian, noted the absence of so many people.
"We should be asking Mr. Ricky Hood to go get more chairs because this place should be full to overflowing," Davis said.
Mayor Percy Bland didn't let the low numbers bother him when he said, "No matter if it is one person or one hundred, we are going to do all we can to knock crime out of this city."
During the presentation, Lee also explained the Zone and Quadrant system he has in place to keep patrol officers in neighborhoods for constant police coverage. After his presentation, Lee opened the floor to questions.
The second forum hosted by Lee will tonight at the Temple Theater. The session will start at 5:30 p.m.