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Picayune Police Department draws a blue line in the sand.

The Picayune Police Department is drawing a “Blue Line” in the sand.

“We’ve got rapid growth in the city, and with growth crime grows, also,” said Deputy Chief David Ervin said in a press conference yesterday.

Ervin was referring to the increased population in the City of Picayune following Hurricane Katrina. Various reports from several organizations say population in the city has either doubled or tripled. One thing is certain, crime is up, said Picayune Police Chief Jim Luke.

“We think it’s been very beneficial to fight crime in the community,” Luke said.

To restrict the spread of drug activity in the city, the Picayune Police Department is drawing the preverbal line in the sand, a blue line at each major road into to Picayune at the city line. That blue line, which drug dealers need not cross, will symbolize law and order in the City of Picayune, Luke said.

“Criminals, this is your chance to leave,” Deputy Chief Tom Milar said. “If you don’t want to leave we got a place for you to stay.”

Operation Blue-Line is an extension of the Three Phase Drug Offensive, consisting of education, apprehension and rehabilitation, initiated by Luke when he took office as police chief, he said.

Since the storm, there has been leakage of crime from the New Orleans area to Picayune, Luke said. This holiday weekend, the Picayune Police Department will stand on the blue line to keep the criminal activity out of the community, Luke said.

Operation Blue-Line is an effort to preserve the hometown atmosphere residents have grown accustomed to, Luke said.

While the blue line operation will not ensure the exclusion of drugs and their dealers from the the area, the department is committed to the safety of the residents.

“We will give you the best effort to keep this the safe community it’s always been,” Ervin said.

After the presentation of the plan, Picayune Mayor Greg Mitchell accepted a donation from Norfolk Southern Railroad of $25,000. The money was raised in part with funds collected from Norfolk Southern employees who contributed $175,000, which the company matched, said John Baker who is with the company.

The money was raised to help communities affected by the storm.

“This is very much appreciated,” Mitchell said.

The money will be used to fund additional officers and additional equipment for the police department, Mitchell said.

Ervin said the department has already been approved seven additional officers and the equipment to support them.

Officers will patrol each blue line site from Thursday through Tuesday for the holiday, Luke said.

Blue lines are located at Jackson Landing Road, North and South Beech streets, U.S. 11, Mississippi 43 South and North, Memorial Boulevard, East and West Canal streets, and Martin Luther King Boulevard at the city limits.

Ervin said that if the program is a success then it will become a permanent part of the Three Phase Drug Offensive.

The Picayune Police Department is asking residents to continue to offer their prayers and support for without them there is no telling where the department would be.