Police enforcement on tags increases

Published 4:38 pm Thursday, September 21, 2006

Some new Pearl River County residents have failed to change their tags from their previous place of residence to Mississippi, while some other residents utilize handicapped parking spaces without proper endorsement.

“These are two of my higher priorities,” Picayune Police Chief Jim Luke said.

Purchasing Mississippi state tags helps to keep roads maintained and helps to fund the school districts in the county, said Pearl River County Tax Assessor Gary Beech. Luke has plans to ensure that new residents of Picayune will abide by the law.

“I expect and require my officers to conduct vehicle traffic stops, checkpoints and use every legal means possible to try to ensure people are abiding by the law as it relates to Mississippi state tags,” said Luke.

For the past year Luke has not asked his officers to strictly enforce the out of state tag since Hurricane Katrina left the department with more pressing issues, Deputy Chief David Ervin said. Recently the department has noticed increased complaints from community members concerning the number of Picayune and Pearl River County residents with out of state tags, Ervin said. Mississippi state law requires any vehicle that resides in the state for 72 hours or more a week to be registered with the state and have a Mississippi state tag, Ervin said. That law also applies to business vehicles that are associated with an out of state business that also reside in Mississippi for 72 hours or more a week, Ervin said.

“We realize we have a lot of relocated residents, but at this point they are residing in this state,” Ervin said. “Everyone needs to pay their fair share to keep roads and bridges maintained. We’re just asking that everyone participate.”

Tag registration in part pays for the schools and for road and bridge maintenance, Beech said. Tags are assessed at 30 percent of their blue book value of the vehicle if used and 30 percent of the manufactured suggested retail price if the vehicle is new, Beech said. Whether a resident lives within the city limits or they live in the Picayune school district, 56.5 mills of the tag price will go to the Picayune school district, Beech said. If the resident lives in the Pearl River Central school district then about 63 mills of the tag price will go to that school district, Beech said. Poplarville residents pay 57 mills to their school district. About 10 mills of the tag price is used to maintain bridges and roads no matter the place of residence, Beech said.

Citations will be issued to enforce compliance of proper tag registration and with another recurring problem in the county, illegal handicapped parking.

“There are a lot of people who are truly handicapped who have to park in the back of the Wal-Mart parking lot,” Luke said.

The Picayune Police Department has been writing many citations relating to the abuse of handicapped parking, Luke said. The long standing problem has been noticed in all parts of the city, not just high traffic areas like Wal-Mart, Ervin said.

One aspect of handicapped parking that would help officers enforce the law is businesses ensuring there is proper marking of the parking spaces designated for the handicapped, Ervin said. If those designated spaces are not properly marked then officers cannot enforce the law. Proper marking includes the blue paint and a handicapped sign, Ervin said.

“So I encourage those who have a handicapped area to get it marked properly because we will enforce it for them,” Ervin said.

The Picayune Police Department asks for help and support from the community on these two important issues.