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Robberies a growing problem in Meridian

By By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Sept. 30, 2001
Meridian police investigators looked into 81 separate armed robberies inside city limits from Jan. 1 to Aug. 29, acts which left more than 90 people victims of a growing crime in Meridian.
When Capt. Betty Evans, head of the police department's Criminal Investigations Division, began her career in law enforcement 24 years ago, area armed robberies almost certainly made headline news.
Today, with the growing number of area businesses and people being robbed, either at gunpoint or by other force, armed robberies especially those at convenience stores are common enough to be buried in the back sections of newspapers and near the end of newscasts.
The Meridian Star filed a request with city officials on Aug. 27 under Mississippi's Public Records Act seeking information on all armed robberies and attempted armed robberies since Jan. 1, 2000.
The report, due on Sept. 17, was partially filled. City officials have not yet released the requested 2000 figures.
The 2001 report, however, reflects that in more than 95 percent of the cases, black men are sought as suspects; more armed robberies are committed in the south and southeastern portions of Meridian; more armed robberies occurred in the months of January and August; and more armed robberies are committed on Saturday and between the hours of 3 p.m. and 11 p.m.
The report also indicates that in each of 26 cases, multiple suspects are being sought. In all, nine people were charged in connection with six 2001 armed robbery cases.
Since the report was released, Meridian police have been called to the scenes of two bank robberies and several area business robberies. The latest armed robbery, at the Highway 493 Amoco station, occurred around midnight Thursday. An arrest was made in the case Friday morning.
Sgt. Joe Hoadley said he sees the trend as "a sign of the times," although there are many reasons why the number of armed robberies is on the rise.
The problem is not exclusively Meridian's, he said.
Evans said the proliferation of drugs and gangs also plays a significant role, but the media's release of too many details for example, that more robbers are wearing blue bandanas can hinder an investigator.
When gangs, groups of people or individuals learn investigators are tracking their acts through certain methods they employ, they change those methods, she said.
Acting Police Chief Benny DuBose said a poor economy is partly to blame.
DuBose said he believes short staffing at the police department has nothing to do with the trend.
Movies that glamorize criminals perpetuate the problem, he said, as do news stories that give criminals hints and ideas.
Police say residents can possibly thwart robbers by making themselves aware.
Victims of armed robberies can help police by remaining calm and getting a good description of details, Evans said. It is common for several victims in a single case to give varying descriptions of suspects, she said.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3236, or e-mail her at mtodd@themeridianstar.com.

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