High time to fight crime
Nov. 25, 2001
By calmly and reasonably detailing their belief that Meridian police need more resources in the fight against crime, Meridian businessman Steve Hall, his wife, Beverly, and former Lauderdale County sheriff's deputy Tom Hayden are reminding all of us that effective crime fighting depends on public involvement.
Their honest and open presentation to the mayor and city council last Tuesday and the support demonstrated by the presence of about 50 like-minded Meridian residents is evidence that a full and complete public policy debate is needed on the city's budget priorities. While they have taken the lead, and, unfortunately, some of the heat emanating from city hall, the Halls and Hayden clearly have latched onto a major quality of life issue in which the entire city has an interest.
The response of Mayor John Robert Smith and Chief Administrative Officer Ken Storms is to deny that a problem exists. One Meridian resident who attended the city council hearing said Smith and Storms had their heads in the sand, which seemed to be a fairly apt observation.
At a mid-week news conference, Smith and Storms waved sheets of paper they said included statistics on crime in Meridian produced for the FBI's Uniform Crime Report.
Let's get this straight: Crime statistics are provided voluntarily by many cities for a list compiled and periodically released by the FBI. This list is deceptive, as one Meridian detective noted, because it only contains the highest crime in what is usually a series of related incidents.
For example, a burglar breaks into a house, kills the occupant, steals his television set and his car. Four crimes have been committed; only the murder gets reported for the purposes of this list because it is the most serious offense.
There really should be no argument over what this list is.
The fact is that Meridian has been without a police chief since July 20. The mayor has backed away from naming a chief by the end of this month, even while the clock still ticks.
The fact is it's time to re-examine city budgets even in this time of economic recession and make more room for law enforcement. Hopefully, the city council will take the lead in finding creative solutions to a budget-strapped police department.
The fact is people have ideas and comments that city officials should listen to.
If people believe there is a gang and drug-related crime problem in Meridian, then there is, in fact, a problem. Denial will not lead to a solution. Accepting the fears of Meridian residents and working constructively to alleviate them, would be a very welcome development.
Showing public support for the police officers themselves is also important. This debate does not question their commitment or devotion to the job. They need to know the public endorses the additional resources they need to police more aggressively.