By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – Crime in the city and the investigative methods used by Police were the topic of discussion at the regular monthly meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, Dec.1.
Carol Bell Brown, a member of the First Christian Church, addressed the board regarding a recent report of a theft at the home of First Christian minister, Bro. David Freeman.
“It brought up some questions that some of us had. Not just me, but some of us in the city had,” Brown said and then added, “This is not a gripe.”
She told Aldermen that the questions did not have to be answered at the meeting. “These can be contemplated and answered at a latter date.”
Brown turned to Police Chief Mike King and asked the first question. “Do we have anyone on our police force who can obtain fingerprints?” She turned back toward Mayor Larry Hart and said, “That question was brought up and we had an answer that didn’t exactly know what the answer was.”
Hart said, “I know the answer, but I am going to let Chief King do it.”
“Yes,” King answered, “we have several personnel in the department who can take fingerprints.”
Brown then asked the next question on her list. “With break-ins and stealing taking place so frequently in our City, we wondered if our police force is prepared to take the necessary steps to get fingerprints or necessary evidence in order to obtain a conviction if and when a suspect is caught and his/her fingerprints match those obtained at the crime scene. Also, if a crime scene is a day or two old, will they go ahead and take fingerprints or look for evidence?”
King answered, “We do take fingerprints on crime scenes where we can if the crime scene hasn’t been disturbed to a point that we don’t think it would do any good to take them.”
“If we do take fingerprints at a crime scene and we find prints, we have to wait until we develop a suspect in order to match those prints to a suspect,” King continued.
The Police Chief explained that if an arrest is made, the suspect’s fingerprints along with those found at the crime scene will then be sent to the state crime lab. “They’ll make the determination as to whether or not they match.”
Brown said that the reason for question two was because police said they did not take fingerprints at the first break-in was because they were a couple of days old.
King responded, “The fact that it was reported later and the fact it had been disturbed.”
Brown questioned, “Every drawer had been disturbed?”
King said that without getting too much into the case, the area was disturbed to the point that police did not take prints.
Brown then asked question three: “With our increasing drug problem where and to whom can a citizen report pertinent information on drug suspects and drug hangouts? It would be helpful if on each shift a designated officer could be assigned to take this information so the informing citizen could do a follow up from that officer. And, personally, I would love to see the drug dealers, users, and anyone allowing their house to be used as a distribution point to be harassed over and over again so they would leave our city.”
Brown added that she had been told who some drug dealers are. “I would love to be able to report to the police, or they could report to the police, if we could have somebody designated who could receive that information and not just whomever was answering the phone.”
King answered, “Any such reporting could be made to any officer on duty. If you designated one officer to do that, the officer would have to be on duty 24 hours a day.”
Brown explained that she meant one officer on each shift.
King continued, “We have a system in place to take those reports and document them. We have an ongoing drug program. We’re very successful in it and I can assure you that ongoing effort is taking place.”
Hart added that during the daytime it would be easy for citizens to contact King or Captain Roger Thomas. “Roger is generally on duty during the day. He’s our lead guy in drug enforcement.”
Alderman Donald Gray asked, “Don’t we also have the CrimeStoppers program?”
“We’ve got that,” Hart said. But, if you had drug information, you’d want to go to the department rather than the CrimeStoppers assuming you want to do something with it.”
Brown then asked question four on her list. “Would it be possible for a police report to be printed in the Herald stating charges pressed against a person and the disposition of that case? As a citizen, I am interested in the effort our police put forth in arresting and getting law breakers off our streets and I am equally interested in seeing the legal trail of either letting that person go free or holding the criminal accountable for their crime.”
Brown turned to King and said, “I know a lot of times y’all do a good job of arresting people and they are let go. And, that’s what we, as citizens of the city, would like to help out. We can backup what y’all do by following the trail as to judges or whomever let them off. Then we can get behind that aspect of it.”
“And,” she added, “it’s not condemning y’all for what you do. I am seriously talking about trying to help and get our drug people out of her and off the streets and let them serve some time for what they are doing.”
Hart spoke again, “We work very hard at that and we have sent quite a few folks to Parchman over the years. It almost requires the judge to buy the drugs the way things have gotten this day and time.”
“I know it’s hard,” said Brown.
Hart continued, “I’m exaggerating there. It is difficult to get a conviction. But, we’ve gotten them and we’ve sent many, many folks to Parchman in relations to drugs. I think it is perpetual in nature. We’ll always have it and we do need information coming in from the community.”
“When they know of things going on, it needs to be reported,” Hart added. “You don’t need to pack your piece and go after them yourself.”
Brown added, “I know with our economy things are getting so bad. I know there’s going to be a lot more of it with things like they are.”
Hart said, “Just in the news recently, they are about to release 15 or 1600 people from Parchman. Non-violent. So, guess where they are going to come? Right back home. We’ve got to deal with them again and you have to go through the process again.”
Browned concluded, “I’m not fussing about it, I’m questioning. And, if people in the city can help, that’s what we want to do.
Among other actions at the Dec. 1 meeting, the Board of Aldermen:
• Approved a $135 registration fee for Zoning and Floodplain Administrator/ Building Inspector Billy Humphreys to attend a training seminar.
• Accepted a bid of $6376.96 from 4-Way Electric, Inc. of Greenwood for an electrical transformer declared surplus by the City Electric Department.
• Voted to accept a proposal from Willis Engineering of Grenada for engineering services at the airport covering the next five years.
In order to speed up the opening of the proposals, Mayor Hart asked if anyone had a knife. Alderman Bobby Cox produced a small, but apparently sharp pocket knife and passed it to the mayor.
As Hart sliced open several of the packages, Cox repeatedly warned that the knife was sharp and to be careful. At one point, Alderman Fred White complained good-naturedly that the mayor had come close to cutting him. White sits next to the mayor at the board table.
After about five minutes of opening packages, Hart announced that there were a total of seven responses. “This is just their qualifications and availabilities. And, I think it would be in order to go ahead and accept Willis for this project since he is our city engineer.”
• Heard a report from the mayor regarding the Christmas dinner for City employees to be held in the depot meeting room at noon on Dec. 21.
• Closed the meeting to enter executive session to discuss a real estate deal and a personnel matter involving an individual employee.
• Returned to regular session after meeting in executive session for just over 31 minutes. Hart invited the aldermen to ride with him in the Christmas parade since the sign from his car reads “Mayor and Board of Aldermen.”
• Voted to accept Steve Holloway’s bid of $267 for a surplus City Electric Department transformer. The bid had been overlooked earlier in the meeting when the surplus property bids were opened.
After the meeting, Hart told the Herald that the only action taken during the executive session was a vote to terminate an employee of the fire department.
Absent from the meeting was Ward 4 Alderman Larry Bell, who had back surgery earlier that day.