Labor Day marks the last official holiday for the summer, and city officials in Meridian are looking ahead to the Christmas holidays and beyond for ways to curb crime.
"I know that we're going to have much more presence this year in the upcoming months of November and December as it relates to holidays and presence around key areas where there have been issues for the city sometimes in the past," says Mayor Percy Bland.
If the city council approves a proposal from the mayor and police chief to hire at least 8 additional officers for the new fiscal year, which starts October 1st, both Mayor Bland and Chief James Lee say those officers will increase police presence citywide. Both men also say that the city is expanding its efforts to fight crime in other ways.
"Here's the issue, you know crime is something that escalates based on the poverty levels; based on people's employment," says Chief Lee.
"We're going to do more things strategically in the community to fight crime," says Mayor Bland. "Our kids have to have more doors open, more opportunity and more hope. We as a community have got to understand the correlation between what the chief has talked about, which is poverty and our kids not having activities and juvenile crimes. So, if kids are not in school then they're not being educated. If they're living in certain conditions where the parents are not super involved in their lives, we're going to have some of these issues that we continue to have. That's why this administration is going to have a huge focus on youth development and youth activities, and we're going to use our Parks and Recreations Department to push those programs."
"I've never seen a city that caters so much to recreation, education and to the public and what they want, and how they want to do it. We're doing everything," says Chief Lee.
Currently, efforts are being made through Meridian's Parks and Recreations Department to start or revive 25 initiatives. Of those, 19 are specifically for youth.