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franklin county times

Robberies in Meridian up from a year ago

By By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Oct. 28, 2001
More armed robberies have occurred in Meridian so far this year than the 88 that were reported for all of 2000, according to information obtained by The Meridian Star under the state's Public Records Act.
From Jan. 1 through Oct. 18 this year, Meridian has had at least 90 armed robberies. Statistics the city provided show that Meridian had 88 armed robberies for all of 2000.
Law enforcement officials say November and December historically have the highest number of armed robberies every year. If this year mirrors the last two months of 2000, the city could see another 24 robberies.
The armed robbery statistics were included in documents The Meridian Star obtained from city officials last week after filing a records request on Aug. 27 under Mississippi's Public Records Act.
The statistics were released more than a month after the 14-day response deadline specified in state law.
Statistic problems
A delay or lack of statistical reporting is a problem Meridian shares with law officers in other cities, said Adam McKee, director of the Mississippi Statistical Analysis Center at the University of Southern Mississippi. The center's goal is to analyze state crime statistics.
Without the right crime statistics, he said, there is no method of determining if Meridian is alone in its escalation of armed robbery cases.
Meridian police announced three weeks ago they are planning strategic moves to combat the city's armed robberies. But McKee said proper information and statistics are needed.
Statistics for 2000 show that 22 robberies were committed in which there is no information about suspects.
Statistics for 2000 and 2001 reflect the date, day, type of crime, case number, location, weapon used, property stolen, if an arrest was made, if fingerprints were lifted, which territory the crime occurred and on which shift.
More information
McKee said the information is not enough.
Compiling results
Meridian Detective Dean Harper said the city's 2000 crime database was outdated and of no use, so he had to manually compile the 2000 robbery statistics.
A new computer program he created has a search engine that can retrieve detailed information from the five crimes only he tracks robbery, auto theft and residential, auto and commercial burglaries. Still, he said, improvements are needed.
Even data from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report is of little help. McKee said that information, which compiles crime statistics in cities nationwide, is outdated and incomplete.
Robbery trends
Meridian's robbery statistics show that armed robberies increased significantly in November and December 2000. As with the 2001 robbery statistics, more black men were sought as suspects and more robberies were committed between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. and in the south and southeastern portions of the city.
The 2000 report reflects that 13 robberies were committed in December, 12 in June and 11 in November with an average of six robberies in each of the other months.
In the 88 reported robberies that year, 50 involved the use of guns, four were committed with knives, 24 were strong arm robberies, 22 robbers used masks, three were home invasions and two involved carjackings.
The report also shows that 56 suspects were black males and five suspects were white males, 16 people were arrested, one robber used a bat, one used a pipe, one used a club, one kidnapped his victim and one tied up his victim.
McKee said a few arrests can drastically alter statistics since a few people are usually responsible for a large number of robberies. Such was the case Oct. 6 when Meridian police arrested one man for the September and October robberies of three bank branches.
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.
In pursuit of the facts:
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.
City officials provided statistics for 2001 robberies in late September. They provided statistics for year 2000 robberies last week more than a month after the 14-day response deadline specified in state law.
The city charged The Meridian Star $112 for the information, which officials said took 16 hours to compile at $7 an hour.

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