Police Chief, Mayor Respond to Crime Concerns

Meridian, Miss. Meridian's mayor and police chief responded to growing concerns about crime. Both are assuring the public that Meridian is safe.

According to Chief James Lee, a new campaign which has officers going door-to-door in high crime areas has been effective. Both he and the mayor say that one of the biggest problems is the number of juveniles who are committing crimes.

"It really comes down to a matter of parenting," said Chief Lee. "What are we doing? Where is my kid at? Why do I not know where he or she is?"

As with a recent carjacking case, Lee stresses that when it comes to crimes that involve juveniles, the victims are often the only ones who can help bring about justice by pressing charges.

"You need to let us know, and you need to follow through," Lee said. "Juvenile law is explicit. We have very, very tough and stringent laws about talking to and arresting juveniles."

Currently, 97 officers work with the Meridian Police Department. The mayor and chief are requesting funds to hire eight more officers next year, and ten more the year after that.

"We want 20, but we probably are only going to get eight," said Mayor Percy Bland. "We're doing everything that we can do in this city to provide more alternatives so that the youth, especially those who are committing these crimes, will see more opportunity and hope. And I'm the mayor asking you to stop committing crimes because at the end of the day we're going to catch you and you're going to go to jail."

Bland projects that adding 8 new officers next year will cost the city about an extra $280,000. The city council must approve a budget for next year by Oct. 1.