Southaven fights to keep crime down despite growth

SOUTHAVEN, MS (WMC-TV) - Crime is a problem in any city or town, but law enforcement officials in Southaven, Mississippi say keeping their quickly growing population safe is their number one priority.

The latest census figures show that Southaven is the fastest growing city in the state of Mississippi and the 5th largest in the state.

In 2000, the population was approximately 29,000 people, compared to 37,000 in 2008. So how does this dramatic increase affect the crime rate?

"We have a good reputation for solving a lot of crimes, for catching a lot of criminals due to good visibility and adequate manpower," Police Chief Tom Long said Friday.

Long, who has led Southaven's Police Department for 20 years, says success in fighting crime comes on two fronts: a cooperative community, and a great partnership with city government.

"Our city fathers have been excellent in seeing the needs that the future would bring, and meeting those challenges prior to having to meet them," he said.
Statistics show crime in Southaven has spiked in some areas from 2000 to 2007 and has gone down or remained consistent in others. Petty crime is the    one exception.

"Those crimes ninety percent of the time are crimes of opportunity," Long said. "If you do not give that thief the opportunity, then you will not lose your merchandise."

Southaven resident Robin Loya feels safe, and says a big key to safety is looking out for one another.

"They patrol our neighborhoods and we always watch out for one another," she said. "If I see anything suspicious, I'll stop and tell a patrolman and they're right on it."
Long credits the visibility of his 94 officers for the success the city has had in keeping down crime. He said the department has plans to increase the number of officers to 110 by the year 2010.