November 29, 2010 9:13:00 AM
Crime in Columbus increased 16.9 percent from 2008 to 2009, making it the city with the 11th highest crime rate in the state, according to a recent FBI study.
The national study showed the city reported a total of 2,494 crimes last year, the most since 2005 when the city reported 2,749 crimes.
The spike was due, in part, to a rash of burglaries committed by a relatively small group of people, said Columbus Police Chief Joseph St. John.
In 2009, there were 276 burglaries -- 77 more than in 2008, when 199 were reported.
"That''s why we have to stay vigilant," St. John said. "If two or three people are allowed to run free and commit crimes unfettered, it impacts the community and the numbers."
Columbus, which has the 14th largest population of the 79 Mississippi cities surveyed, is plagued primarily with property crimes, larceny and motor vehicle thefts, the report says.
"Property crime is what we''ve been talking about for over a year now," St. John said. "That''s the stuff we can prevent. That''s where citizens can help."
A simple way to protect yourself against vehicle crime is to lock your car doors, he continued. Also, do not leave valuables outside or in your vehicles when they are unattended or unsecured.
Other crimes, like violent crime and aggravated assault, were comparatively low in Columbus, according to the study.
St. John attributed the low numbers to a zero-tolerance attitude in the community.
"If we ever have a crime like that, people get extremely upset, and that''s a good thing," he added.
Starkville, the city with the 13th largest population, had the 19th highest crime rate in the state. Altogether, the city reported 1,586 crimes in 2009, up 22 percent from 1,299 in 2008.
The overall increase in Starkville was mostly due to spikes in property crime and thefts.
CRIME IN MISS. CITIES
The following 15 cities reported the highest crime levels in Mississippi in 2009, according to a recent FBI study. The FBI-compiled statistics take into consideration violent crime, murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, property crime, burglary, larceny-theft, auto burglary and arson.
1. Jackson (pop. 172,799), 29,507 crimes
2. Gulfport (pop. 69,926), 7,688 crimes
3. Biloxi (pop. 45,160), 5,671 crimes
4. Hattiesburg (pop. 52,716), 5,092 crimes
5. Meridian (pop. 38,054), 5,058 crimes
6. Southaven (pop. 46,093), 4,538 crimes
7. Greenville (pop. 35,187), 4,277 crimes
8. Vicksburg (pop. 24,827), 4,124 crimes
9. Tupelo (pop. 36,453), 3,902 crimes
10. Pascagoula (pop. 23,346), 3,010 crimes
11. Columbus (pop. 23,577), 2,494 crimes
12. Laurel (pop. 18,741), 2,296 crimes
13. Olive Branch (pop. 33,284), 2,277 crimes
14. Clarksdale (pop. 17,741), 2,259 crimes
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