Crime in Meridian … Residents unimpressed with mayor's response

By By Fredie Carmichael/The Meridian Star
Nov. 22, 2001
Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith insisted at a press conference Wednesday that crime in Meridian is on the decline.
His remarks came after 50 citizens appeared before the Meridian City Council the previous night to express their concerns about an apparent upswing of gang and drug-related crime in their neighborhoods.
Smith quoted statistics from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, released in October, to support his position. The UCR is produced annually using reports voluntarily submitted by law enforcement agencies from all over the country.
But some officers feel the UCR's statistics can be misleading. The UCR does not reflect "multiple offenses," when more than one crime is committed at the same time arson and burglary, for instance.
Asked why he felt it more appropriate to quote UCR statistics, rather than those generated locally by the police department, the mayor said, "These numbers are coming from the local departments. What you don't realize is the UCR report gives you totals of crimes in categories."
As Smith answered the question, his chief administrative officer, Ken Storms, abruptly left his seat in the city's municipal courtroom and angrily stormed to the podium.
Residents unimpressed
But residents who demanded Tuesday that the mayor appoint a police chief, increase patrol and pay officers higher salaries were not impressed with the figures Smith cited.
Tom Hayden, a resident of an Oakland Heights neighborhood and a former Lauderdale County sheriff's deputy, shares Hall's concern.
Police chief update
Smith said two weeks ago he hoped to name a new police chief by the end of November. On Wednesday, he said there are no new developments in the search.
A top officer with the Charleston, S.C., police department, Lt. Harold Hill, was offered the job during a recent two-day visit to Meridian. Hill said he enjoyed visiting Meridian, but turned the job down due mostly to salary considerations.
Smith said Wednesday the police chief's salary is negotiable.
Fredie Carmichael is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3228, or e-mail him at fcarmichael@themeridianstar.com.

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