Residents discuss crime prevention, problems

Published 9:59 pm Thursday, June 7, 2018

Suggestions to improve the Vicksburg Police Department’s ability to fight crime and complaints about a lack of police response to calls took up the majority of an 1 ½ hour Thursday meeting on community policing and police manpower.

About 35 people attended the meeting of the city crime committee’s community policing and police manpower subcommittee at the City Hall Annex.

The meeting was the second in a series of public meetings held by the crime committee’s four subcommittees. A meeting on city ordinances will be Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

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“We are not here to have a discussion on crime,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. told the group. “Give us ideas on ways you think would help us solve the crimes.”

Many of the recommendations were taken under consideration by Flaggs and representatives from the police department, Chief Miton Moore, deputy chief Eric Paymon and patrol commander Capt.Penny Jones.

One resident suggested a program in the schools where convicted criminals who have served their time would talk to students about avoiding committing crimes.

Another suggested putting more undercover officers on the street.

Other people registered problems they had in the past with police calls.

Lucy Derossette, who lives on Cherry Street, said she filed a theft report on items taken from one of the rental homes she and her husband own.

She said police were called, and they gave the officer a list of the items, the name of the person who took the items and where they were living. “We have not heard anything else,” she said.

She said she was walking with her daughter on Cherry one evening when she heard shots fired and called 911, but received no response, adding she was concerned whether it was safe for her and her daughter to return home.

“I could have been shot or my daughter could have been shot,” she said. “I stayed waiting on the line with 911 for eight minutes, and when we got back home, I saw a police car drive by.”

Derossette said 911 needed a rollover system where calls would roll over to a dispatcher to talk with her. Later in the meeting, Moore said if someone gets a recording from 911 or is left hanging, they can call the police station at 601-636-2511 and file a report with a desk officer and a car will respond.

Andrew Harrell, a Drummond Street resident, presented Flaggs with a five-page list of complaints, telling the group, “I think crime is the worst it’s ever been under any mayor in the city.”

He claimed drug activity in the area was “worse than it’s ever been. Why do the criminals have an edge in getting away with crime? The whole system is broken.” He also claimed the police and sheriff’s office were using career criminals as informants.

“You know all the criminals in town; you’re very aware of what’s happening,” he told Flaggs.

Flaggs set a Wednesday meeting with Harrell and Moore to discuss the complaints.

“The community policing not only involves the police officers who live in the community, who live in Vicksburg, but it’s also our resposibilty,” Karen Ferderick said.

When people see something or have a suggestion, to improve the crime prevention, she said, they need to tell the police or the mayor. She also asked if the city can force people with vacant, blighted properties to keep their property up.

Flaggs said the city is in the process of removing blighted property, but it has a certain procedure set by state law to follow.

Another resident suggested outfitting used metal shipping containers as mobile command posts to put in high crime areas to stop problems like people shooting off firearms.

Moore said he has officers working in undercover in high crime areas between the hours of 1 and 4 a.m.

“We also have traffic officers working during that period,” he said. “I have 12 to 14 undercover officers officers working late hours.”

He said the department presently has six people who have applied to be officers, adding, “We may get three or four out of that.”

Jones told the group the department would be starting a new program called “Citizens on Patrol,” a program that introduces civilians to police work.

The program, she said, is designed to help peope feel more comfortable when they report things to police, and helps them have a better idea what to look for if they see something suspicious.

“We will have more information on the program in the future,” she said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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