The weekend arrest of alleged gang members by the Meridian Police Department had officials at Monday's East Mississippi Business Development Corporation's Council of Governments talking about gang problems in Meridian and greater Lauderdale County.

    Lauderdale County Sheriff Billie Sollie said local law enforcement officers have a new gang to contend with.

    "We have discovered a new gang, the Mossy Oak Gang," Sollie said during his report to the city and county officials attending the Monday lunch meeting.

    Harvey Anderson, a 19-year-old male, was arrested this weekend on four charges, including aggravated assault, shooting into a vehicle, participating in or conducting gang activity and directing youth to commit a felony.

    "That was a city arrest, but he's in our jail," Sollie said.

    Anderson's bail was set at $425,000.

    Also arrested was Demetrius M. Durr, 16, who was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, shooting into a vehicle and participating in or conducting gang activity. His bail was set at $475,000.

    Lauderdale County School Superintendent Randy Hodges said gangs remain a big problem in his district.

    "It is extremely serious because of what it is doing to our city and county," Hodges said. "It effects our schools, our businesses, everything."

    Sollie also reported that the population at the Lauderdale County jail stands at 168. That number is down from a recent high of 300 back in July.

    "I remind you that if they are not with us or in MDOC (Mississippi Department of Corrections), those released are in your neighborhoods," Sollie said. "That can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing."

    Sollie said residents should also be careful of credit card fraud. He said someone tried to charge an airline ticket on one of his credit cards.

    "Watch your bill, check it," Sollie said. "My credit card got hit for $1,963 for an airline flight."

    Sollie reported the suspicious activity and the card company took the needed action to dismiss the charge.

    Ward 5 Meridian Councilman Randy Hammon talked positively about the Resource Network helping his code enforcement department locate and identify vacant properties.

    Hodges told officials that Lauderdale County elementary schools are getting their students prepared for April's Third Grade Gateway Literacy test.

    "We've been able to red flag 17 students and we have assigned extra study help to them," Hodges said. "I have to commend the job of our principals in identifying those students who need help. If they fail this test they must repeat the third grade. I feel good about where we stand as of today."

    Those present voted to reelect Meridian Ward 1 Councilman Dr. George Thomas as the council's president for 2015. Lauderdale County District 3 Supervisor Josh Todd was reelected as the council's vice president and Circuit Clerk Donna Jill Johnson as the council's secretary.

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