Robberies frustrate victims, police
By By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Sept. 30, 2001
An understaffed police department and increasingly brazen robbers who strike in daylight hours are among the reasons cited for a rising number of robberies in Meridian.
The combination is making it more difficult to apprehend the robbers, officials say.
Ken Storms, the city's chief administrative officer, said the Meridian Police Department is currently understaffed by 17 officers.
Even though he personally cleared robbery information released to The Meridian Star under a Public Records Act request, Storms said he does not know how many robberies have been committed within the city limits this year. But he claimed the "clearance rate," or conviction rate, is higher than the national average.
The documents show that of 81 robbery cases opened by MPD investigators this year, nine people have been arrested in six separate cases. That would amount to a "clearance rate" of about 7.4 percent of the cases.
Meridian police and other city officials failed to disclose at least two of the incidents, either at the time they occurred or on an official report recently obtained from the city by The Meridian Star under Mississippi's Public Records Act. Officials said they were not reported as robberies for official record-keeping purposes, even though money and other valuables were taken in both incidents.
Not told by police:
Two victims' stories
Mars, 62, said she became so angry when a woman took her purse, she chased the woman to her car.
Mars said she was helped by Dillard's employees, but mall security officers were not interested in speaking with her or in making a report.
Mars said she waited at the MPD for three hours for a copy of her report. When she did receive the report, she discovered her race was incorrectly listed as black. The report also stated her wallet, purse and its contents, about $50 in cash, were worth $1.
Mars said when she returned home she received a phone call from officers who wanted her to return to Meridian to photograph her bruises.
DuBose agreed the case could have been handled more appropriately, and some errors were made.
Another victim's story
Cynde Powers, who was robbed of her purse in the Highway 39 North Winn Dixie parking lot at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 15, said she is disturbed by the lack of manpower on Meridian's police force.
Powers was putting groceries into her car when a truck pulled up behind her. Her purse was in the grocery cart.
Powers said about 20 people witnessed the incident. When police responded, she was able to give a detailed description.
Powers said she told police the next day she recognized the truck as belonging to someone who had recently sold it.
Powers said the mayor called her concerning the case.
What the authorities say
Officials said both cases are still under investigation, although in Powers' case, the crime was listed as a grand larceny because police have no record of a struggle.
Bonita Lakes Mall Manager Bob Jenkins said he was never informed of Mars' robbery.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for the Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3236, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith, who has characterized himself as the city's chief law enforcement officer and described Meridian as the "state's safest city," refused to comment, even after repeated efforts by The Meridian Star to include his views in these stories.