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Crime watch: Residents cite need for more funding

By Staff
RALLYING SUPPORT Beverly Hall rounded up support Tuesday night at a meeting of the Meridian City Council. She and other Meridian residents demanded the city appoint a police chief, pay officers more and increase the number of patrol units. Photo by Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Nov. 21, 2001
Concerned about gang and drug-related crime in Meridian's neighborhoods, about 50 residents challenged the mayor and city council Tuesday night to devote more resources to law enforcement.
Hall and his wife, Beverly, members of the Marion Park-Poplar Springs Neighborhood Watch group said they acted on behalf of other residents as they presented a petition to Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith and the city council. The petition demanded that city officials fund more police officers, increase neighborhood patrols and ensure that police officers get a pay raise when councilmen begin working on next year's budget.
Members of the Oakland Heights Neighborhood Watch also were at the city council meeting.
Hall said Ward 5 Councilman Bobby Smith told him it was better to get community presence at the council meeting than to submit a list of names.
Steve Hall said local crime is more dangerous to Meridian residents than the threat of foreign terrorists or anthrax poison. And, he said, crime can be reduced with the "right leadership, the right officer pay and the right number of officers."
The Meridian Police Department is doing a good job, he said. But he said hiring a police chief to raise officers' morale, increasing pay and increasing the number of officers "should be the priority of the entire city of Meridian."
Mayor Smith said that Acting Chief Benny DuBose, who has served as police chief for the past five months, is "empowered with full authority as chief" and can make recommendations for changes.
But the Meridian Police Department is doing a good job, Mayor Smith said.
Using statistics whose source he did not identify, Mayor Smith said of 21 categories tracked and reported, arson and robbery is up, while 15 categories including business burglaries, grand larceny, shooting into a dwelling, aggravated assault, simple assault, rape and sex offenses are down.
Officials expect the city to have 150 fewer business burglaries by the end of the year compared to last year, he said. Aggravated assault is down by half as many cases, he said, while simple assault is down by 50.
DuBose said he appreciates citizens' efforts to get more officers hired and to improve their pay. He said he appreciates and police officers need community involvement.
But, DuBose said, crime rates are "comfortably improving, as the statistics will indicate. We would appreciate a larger chunk of the budget, but we have to work with what we have."
After the meeting, Beverly Hall said she was not satisfied with comments by Mayor Smith on the current state of crime in Meridian. "We've got to give our police department the personnel and resources they need to do their jobs and let them go do it," she said.
Meridian resident James E. Smith said his neighborhood has been victimized by seven recent residential burglaries and a strong-armed robbery during which an 81-year-old neighbor was assaulted.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail
People's poll:
Why do you think this petition is important, or why are you involved?
Basically, you have to have your own gang. The government in this city is not trying to broaden the police corps, and we need more officers. Civilians have no way of keeping everything from being taken away from them."
Bill Downs,
Marion Park-Poplar Springs Neighborhood Watch
Marion Park-Poplar Springs Neighborhood Watch
neighborhoods need to be responsible in screening people they rent to. Not all of them, but some of them care very little, and people who are not here tonight would benefit from (being here). Some people who are renting out homes don't even live in the area. I'd like to see a survey of homeowners who live here and those who rent their properties out."
Marion Park-Poplar Springs Neighborhood Watch