Picayune police reports decrease in crime

Published 8:15 pm Thursday, January 18, 2007

Crime in the City of Picayune is on a decline since Hurricane Katrina, according to the Picayune Police Department.

Picayune Police Chief Jim Luke has reported that there are decreases across the board in burglaries, child neglect, DUI, disorderly conduct and domestic violence. However a look at statistics provided by the department reflect that more than half of the incidents called in to the department have shown increases from last year. Crime decreases are only seen between the years 2004 and 2006. In all, 14 categories show increases between 2005 and 2006 while 10 categories show decreases between the two years.

Deputy Chief David Ervin said those statistics are inaccurate since there was an increase in population and not an increase in local law enforcement.

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“Those figures are not a good yard stick,” Ervin said.

Ervin said that from the time of the storm to about the end of the year there were incidents that were not reported since there were more pressing issues in the city. Such incidents, such as disorderly conduct calls, may have been answered by one of the law enforcement agencies that came from other jurisdictions. Those officers did not have arresting rights, they were only here to help keep the peace, he said.

In addition to the outside officers not being able to perform arrests on incidents that normally would have warranted one, the department was strapped for supplies so they had to try to keep the prison population down, Ervin said.

While statistics from the department show that there were actually two more reported incidents of trespassing and one more rape in 2006 as compared to 2005, there was also a population increase, Ervin said. Even in categories where figures were the same or slightly higher than previous years, the population increase would warrant the department to announce a decrease given a per capita perspective, Ervin said. Overall statistical decreases are only reflected between 2004 and 2006, not between 2005 and 2006, according to the statistics provided by the department.

Figures from 2004 were compared with 2006 figures instead of 2005 to compensate for the events that took place in the days after the storm, Deputy Chief David Ervin said.

The category with the largest increase was alcohol related incidents, in spite of Pearl River County being dry. In 2005 there were 195 incidents that involved alcohol and in 2006 there were 300 reported, according to the statistics given by the department. Ervin attributes that increase to there being less officers per capita conducting traffic stops and road blocks in the days after the storm.

“It’s not a typical year to measure anything against,” Ervin said. “2005 is one year that we can’t really say we can compare to a full year. We had eight months of a standard year and four months of completely different operations when we were dealing with so many different issues.”

Drug related incidents was one of the categories that showed an increase in all three years, according to statistics provided by the Picayune Police Department. Luke attributes that to increased enforcement.

“We’ve taken a very aggressive stance on drugs here in the last few years,” Luke said.

The department is appreciative to city council support, which provided additional equipment and manpower to help fight crime in the city, he said. Luke also attributes the decrease to the staff he has and the initiation of Operation Blue Line.

“Maybe this is evidence that our message is getting through,” Luke said about Operation Blue Line.

Another contributing factor the Police Department attributes the crime decrease to is community involvement, who are the department’s eyes and ears, Luke said.

“They’re just absolutely invaluable for our job,” Ervin said. “That’s part of our success, we have the eyes and ears that are willing to pick up the phone and call us.”

The Police Department would like to report that the most recent burglaries were solved with in a minimal amount of time, Luke said. Those included the robberies of Ward’s, Handy Cleaners, Family Dollar and the robbery at Pine Tree Plaza.

“Those were solved within hours,” Luke said.