Officer Next Door Initiative Starts

Meridian, Miss. Two Meridian police officers moved into their new apartments in Western Gardens Wednesday, officially putting the Officer Next Door program into action.

Officer Next Door was initiated in 2000, but the Meridian Housing Authority will be the first in Mississippi to implement the initiative, out of 55 housing authorities in the state.

MHA officials say Western Gardens has recently been challenged with increased criminal and gang-related activity, and it's where the agency wanted to begin.

"Communities are a lot safer when police officers live in the community and actually become a part of the community," said MHA executive director, Ronald Turner, Sr. "We're not implementing this program for it to be intimidating for the residents of Meridian Housing Authority. We're trying to enhance and improve the quality of life."

Meridian Mayor Percy Bland says Western Gardens is only the first step in this program. He hopes to be able to move officers into other apartment complexes as well. Eastern Gardens and Highway Village are being considered.