August 24, 2010 9:47:00 AM
Crime is a community problem and citizen involvement is a powerful preventative measure, the Columbus City Council and command staff of the Columbus Police Department agreed.
The council and Mayor Robert Smith met with CPD Chief Joseph St. John and members of his command staff Monday in a special council meeting to address crime in the city.
"This is not a meeting to degrade you and your command staff or to bash you and your command staff," Smith said, beginning the meeting during which members of the council expressed appreciation for and thanked the CPD.
"In Mississippi, there''s not a more accessible police department," St. John said, agreeing the department still can do more to get officers out on foot patrols in communities, especially after the "terrible amount of crime" seen over the past weekend.
"We''ll start using (police) substations more on weekends and have more foot patrols," he promised, also noting five officers recently were appointed to a Drug Interdiction Crime Enforcement (DICE) team, a team working exclusively on weekends to address concerns with bars and nightclubs throughout the city.
The department maintains functioning substations in Oak Manor, Sims Scott Park, East Columbus, at the offices of The CPI Group on Main Street and in Leigh Mall.
"The police department can''t be at all crimes," Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem noted. "What do we have to do to take back our streets?"
"Crime is going to be cycled," St. John said. "Crime is going to be a problem; we''re going to have to deal with it."
St. John also was asked about the efficacy of offering a gun amnesty program, during which people can sell their guns to the CPD and the guns subsequently are destroyed.
"It will not get the guns I want off of the streets, but it will give good people a chance to get the guns out of their houses," St. John said and his command staff agreed the program would do little to rid the streets of dangerous weapons used in crimes. Generally, only "junk" guns which do not work are turned in during the program, St. John explained, noting he offered such a program multiple times at his previous department in Newport News, Va.
"They''re stealing their guns and they''re trading them for drugs," he added.
"They don''t hurt and they don''t help either," Assistant CPD Chief Joe Johnson said of gun amnesty programs, which he acknowledged the CPD has not offered during his 36 years with the department.
"The problem we''ve got is a crime problem, not a police problem," Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box said.
"I''m in the trenches and I witness this every day," Karriem said. "We all know perception is reality. What are the plans to change the perception crime is high?"
"We all know crime is prevalent," Smith said.
"We keep a good grip here," St. John said. "Crime runs in cycles. We''re on top of what''s happening now and we''re pushing through."
"What we''ve got to remember is crime travels," Karriem said, urging crime be addressed as a community problem and not only as an issue affecting specific areas of the city.
"We need to see crime as a community problem," St. John agreed, also noting Box''s observation "it all goes back to drugs" is correct.
"It''s drugs and the fact we have people who want to perpetuate violence," St. John added.
"You can''t put it all to drugs," Karriem objected. "Unemployment is high and that plays into it, as well."
Vice Mayor and Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin suggested doing more to "involve" and train communities in forming and conducting neighborhood watch programs.
And St. John agreed for the CPD soon to begin holding community meetings in each of the city''s wards to encourage and help communities begin the programs.
"There must be more interaction from the community," Lt. Selvain McQueen said, noting officers met with "untold" amounts of resistance recently while questioning neighbors about an attempted rape in the Northaven Woods subdivision.
"If you don''t want these things occurring in your neighborhood, you''ve got to tell the police (about what you know and have witnessed)," he added.
jd commented at 8/24/2010 12:18:00 PM:
The cycle increases this time of year during gang initiation. One reason neighbors are not so cooperative with officers is fear of reprisal from groups running the streets. Combine this with the drug epidemic, unemployment, and general lack of respect for authority, and there is little wonder this is happening. Neighborhood watch programs will help. More police presence will also help, but in motorized vehicles rather than on bicycles (in case a chase is required). We appreciate the efforts of CPD and all community groups. It is IMPERATIVE that we ALL work together.
ckirby commented at 8/24/2010 12:34:00 PM:
What about stop running hard working families out of the city? Stupid comments by council members and the school board about still having too many whites on the council and the sb aren't helping. and get Joe a haircut. I thought st. john told him to trim that afro? And stop the mayor and Johnson from killing any more suspects. With st. john off badgering citizens who offend the mayor how's he supposed to do police work anyway? You guys in the press are stacking up 900 pound elephants in every room in the house. I predict this message will last about one hour.
neverwrong commented at 8/24/2010 1:46:00 PM:
And just as sure as you do tell the police what you know and what you've seen going on in your neighborhood you are profiling to some degree....and we all know where that leads. This will last less than an hour!
td commented at 8/24/2010 2:32:00 PM:
Why am I not surprised by the crime wave. This is what happens when the mayor and city council lose moral authority.
lee commented at 8/24/2010 2:46:00 PM:
eliminate the black crime in Columbus and you eliminate 90% of the problem.....
honesty commented at 8/24/2010 4:26:00 PM:
Tell the cops? When a court officer can come into a restaurant and eat while he knows that there is an employee with outstanding warrants (some stemming from drug possession) in the kitchen not 20 ft away from him and not arrest him, I believe we have a problem. When you tell the police chief that the house around the corner from you is a drug hangout and it takes the kid pulling an armed robbery MONTHS later because nothing was done about the kid selling drugs, I believe we have a problem. Why should we get involved when nothing gets done when we do?
fiveo commented at 8/24/2010 7:03:00 PM:
I think one misconception people have when they call in information is that police can swoop in and arrest people and problem solved. The problem we face and what can sometimes take time to get people arrested, is that we have rules to play by. We have to make cases on people legally and within the perameters of the law and the criminals have no rules and no law. If criminals were concerned with the law, they wouldn't be criminals. To say you have a drug hangout next to your house is definitely a problem, but police can't just kick in the door and lock everybody up based soley on that complaint. Drug cases dominate the court dockets so obviously it can be done, but people get frustrated with police sometimes when we can't take care of a problem in the timeframe that they think we should. I promise you it's frustrating for us too.
citizen commented at 8/24/2010 10:31:00 PM:
We sure do see a lot of negative comments. Let's find some good candidates, help them run an honest election and change things. It's up to US to put people in authority who can and will run the city with good moral values. I'm ready for a change for the better.
honesty commented at 8/25/2010 11:31:00 AM:
We never expect the police to swoop in and make arrests. But we at least expect you to investigate. The only way most criminals are caught now is if they are pulled over for some traffic violation and their name pulls up an outstanding warrant when it is run through the computer. And I would still like an explanantion as to why a court officer can knowingly NOT arrest someone with outstanding warrants. Playing by the rules should not be a problem in this case. The warrant is outstanding - so pick him up.
roscoe p. coltrain commented at 8/28/2010 6:51:00 AM:
Common sense would tell you that if you aren't winning the war on crime, you need to change the rules.
Are you aware there are a million ARMED gang members living inside this country? The exist because they have to be caught doing something and even then all you're going to do is put them in prison where they can continue to operate/thrive until they are let out. All you will have accomplished is wasting tax money housing/feeding them.
So obviously what you are doing, the "rules", aren't working. So why are you still doing them?
1. Cajun seafood restaurant coming to Highway 45 COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. Parents rush to get children at Armstrong Middle School after false gun scare STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
3. Police dressed as joggers nab man for indecent exposure STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
5. Woman jailed for allegedly stabbing husband COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY