Downtown crime – Is it on the rise?

A murder after a fight at the New Orleans Cafe on Grove Street. Muggings. The absence of foot patrols by police. Problems with 911 service. Is crime downtown and in our neighborhoods on the rise? Can we depend on the VPD to prevent crime, or to respond when we need them? Describe your experiences and give us your opinion in the “comments” thread below.

Published in: on June 22, 2007 at 12:46 am  Comments (19)  

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  1. I hesitated to report the incident described herein for fear of giving our downtown a “black eye;” however, in the end, I felt some good might come from publishing it.
    As is my normal custom, last Monday night (June 18) I took our dogs out for their evening walk. It was certainly later than my usually routine (10PM), but dogs have to go regardless. I planned on walking around the block from home (717 Clay St.) south along Washington Street up Crawford to Walnut and back north to home. As I walked south on Washington Street I noticed three people standing across the street watching me. So I made a point of looking over my shoulder as I walked. As I turned the corner of Washington and Crawford I observed one male leave the group and walk south. When I tried to get a better look at him he flattened and hid himself against the backside of one of the large columns in front of (old) Charles’ Dept. Store. I walked on up Crawford Street, and observed that I was being followed by the male.
    Let me pause to say that I have a firearms permit, and have had one since the 1980s. But that’s another story. I always carry a firearm when I’m walking the dogs after dusk.
    I knew trouble was coming, so I pulled my pistol from my back pocket and held it hidden against my leg, then stopped at the grassy area alongside St. Paul’s Catholic Church on Crawford Street, and allowed the male to walk past. He stopped about ten feet above me and asked if I had the time. I told him “no.” He began walking back down the sidewalk, then turned and began walking toward me. He said then, “Come here, you.” As he neared me I lifted my arm and pointed my pistol at him. He jumped at the sight, ran a few steps, then turned and fired once at me with his own pistol. Fortunately, the bullet went wide. I did a bit of weaving to avoid being hit if he fired again, then watched as the male ran first down the sidewalk, then back up, then down again, etc. – crazily, almost comically, as he tried to avoid a possible bullet – until he reached Washington Street, where he turned back north. As there were apartments and stores in my line of fire during his departure, I did not discharge my gun.
    I called 911 when I arrived back home (and believe me, we do have problems with 911 service). The police took a report including a description of the male, then left to search for him; the last thing the watch captain said to me was, “It’s a good thing you had your gun.” Apparently their search was in vain, for I have not heard from the police since.
    A murder resulted from a fight at the New Orleans Café on Grove Street just a few blocks from and only one day prior to this incident. A window pane was broken from a door of my building about a month ago in an effort to gain entrance. I personally know of a young man who was chased down and robbed (and cut) several weeks ago after walking from the service station at Cherry and Clay Streets toward his apartment on Monroe Street. There have been other robberies and violent confrontations reported, and with little doubt, others that have gone unreported.
    Is downtown becoming unsafe? The evidence seems to indicate so. More police presence, especially foot patrols, may be required to prevent the situation from becoming even worse.
    Let me say that I have been walking my dogs downtown for nearly fifteen years, sometimes at midnight, and though I’ve had my share of bums hitting me up, this is the first violent incident I’ve experienced. But this and the other incidents indicate that we are not as safe as we have a right to be. I’m convinced that only by facing and discussing and reporting confrontations of this nature will we persuade city government to take action to assure that we are safe, not only downtown, but safe in every neighborhood throughout our town. I hope you will do your part.

  2. Earlier this week two of my tenants on Harrison Street, just behind First Pres and across from First Baptist churches were the victims of auto burglaries. In one, the handle of the locked truck was ripped out and about $3000 worth of tools were taken. That same night his next door neighbor lost a knife and cigarettes while he took a load of groceries inside, leaving the truck door open about 3 minutes.

    In both cases, no attempt was made to do anything but take a report… in the first burglary, there should have been ample evidence but no one even tried.

    I’ve just found out that there is probably now a crack house just down the street. This street used to have a small pocket of problems down by First North, but it seems to be growing.

  3. There is apparently more crime in Vicksburg than that which we’re reading about in the Post everyday (not to deride the Post – it could be that they don’t have access to such information, or have other reasons for not printing it).

    For your information, Larry Gawronski and David Day will be hosting a new local VICKSBURG radio talk show from the Klondike on Washington Street on Mark Jones’ 1490AM. The show will air 8:00 – 9:00 AM each weekday morning. Larry has asked me to be on the show next Thursday. I hope each of you will support Larry and David in their effort to bare the good and the bad in our town. Malcolm

  4. The article in the Vicksburg Post regarding this incident quoted Chief of Police Moffett as indicating that his only suggestion to reduce crime was to rid the downtown area of bars. Deputy Chief Richard O’Bannon indicated that foot patrols are not possible due to budget restrictions, and that “If people are predetermined to commit a crime, they’re going to do it. If our foot patrol is at one end of downtown, they’ll commit the crime at the other end of downtown.” In other words, neither Moffett nor O’Bannon can do anything about downtown crime. How can it be that the city is going to spend $250,000 on a study of a sports complex, is spending millions on sidewalks and street-side flower planters, etc., etc., yet cannot afford foot patrols or additional police officers? If they really put their minds to it, don’t you think they could catch criminals at both ends of downtown? They’re not even trying, and the reason is simple: they apparently don’t give a damn! And it appears our “city fathers” don’t give enough of a damn to straighten things out in the VPD. Perhaps we need new leadership at city hall and at the VPD.

  5. What exactly is it going to take for us to feel safe in our community? I am afraid to go out anywhere in the city after dark. I am afraid to walk in my neighborhood in broad daylight for fear of being mugged or shot. I am afraid for my child to play in his own yard for fear of him being shot or abducted. What has the world come to when the criminals roam free and rule our society as though they are the lawmakers? They freely rob, rape and murder our loved ones as though they have every right to do so. No wonder all of the businesses have closed. Vicksburg will soon be a ghost town. I, for one, do not plan to stick around and wait for something to happen to one of my loved ones! My family will move as far away as we can.

  6. Front page of today’s paper headlines Leyen’s concern about panhandlers downtown. Is he out of touch, or what?

  7. You know what Vicksburg…You really “can not make this stuff up”…now O’Bannon’s answer is how good the panhandling business is and it is the fault of the community. It looks like the Mayor must clean it up himself…chw

  8. Conversation with VPD Chief Tommy Moffett 6-27-07

    I wrote Chief Moffett on June 14 regarding the noise level on Clay Street caused not only by the juke-joints-on-wheels, but by the many vehicles without legal mufflers – including the motorcycles that rattle the window panes and that are waking us at 2:00 AM. I also asked how the VPD would respond if I called in the tag numbers of the offenders’ vehicles. When I had not heard from him (June 27) I called to determine the reason.

    I first asked if he had gotten my letter, to which he responded “I’m sure I did.” Since it was obvious he didn’t know what I was talking about, I related the contents of the letter. A vigorous discussion ensued; rather than repeat it, I’ll just list his reactions to my questions:

    1. Chief Moffett was adamant he will not place foot patrols downtown, echoing Deputy Chief O’Bannon’s view that the criminals will just move their activity to the other ends of town. He did agree (as did O’Bannon) to increase the frequency of vehicular patrols.
    2. Under present legal restrictions, he can do little about the late-night activities at the New Orleans Café; he feels strongly that “clubs” and residential quarters are incompatible, and would support a city ordinance banning “clubs” from some areas.
    3. Apparently, there is an ongoing feud between the chief and DA Gil Martin. Martin has refused to pursue charges against some violent lawbreakers, and has only proceeded in certain cases after strong protests from the chief (A personal comment: Martin also seems to be placing many of the criminals back out on the street rather than giving them residence in the pokey).
    4. The chief is of the opinion that the Vicksburg Post is reporting only a portion of arrests and crimes. He stated that the Post has declined his offer to open all VPD files for scrutiny by the newspaper so that it can make the public aware of all arrests and criminal activities taking place within the city.
    5. Both Moffett and O’Bannon indicated that lack of sufficient numbers of police officers (and budget restraints) prevented them from employing foot patrols. I asked Chief Moffett why he didn’t hire more. He answered that he would like to do just that, but he has been unable to find qualified candidates to fill the jobs.
    6. Moffett indicated that he would do more to deter noisy vehicles on Clay and Washington Streets, but would do nothing when the tag numbers of offenders were reported to him. Only by filing a written complaint can an individual bring charges to bear against these inconsiderate elements.

    I was impressed with Chief Moffett’s sincerity; however, only by dedicating more resources to fighting crime will he be able to assure our citizens that they are safe in their homes and on our streets and sidewalks. If our city is to continue its progress toward excellence, the populace must feel safe.

    One additional personal comment: James Buie (J&B Cabs) was shot by a thug early Wednesday morning at the car wash on Clay Street. The Vicksburg Post relegated the story to page 2 in Wednesday’s edition, and did not mention Buie in Thursday’s edition – though the newspaper did make mention of an additional murder and a robbery.

  9. The chief of police is big on playing the blame game. With the chief it’s always somebody else’s fault as to why crime is up, why the police department isn’t performing well. It’s time for a new chief who will own up to the problems in the police department and get the job done. We need a chief who will clean up the crack houses, protect the weak and helpless, patrol problem areas, yes, on foot if necessary. We need a chief with “CAN DO” spirit, not “Won’t Do” We need a chief who can work co-operatively with the district attorney’s office to get strong cases to the Grand Jury. We need a chief who will see that arrests are made, and made properly. We need a chief who will see that detectives collect evidence, run tests and build cases so that the Grand Jury can send strong cases to trial. We need police officers who will be prepared in the courtroom, can answer questions honestly and effectively to assist the district attorney in getting convictions. If you think gathering evidence, running tests and building cases is the district attorney’s job, you watch too much television. That’s entertainment. In real life, the police have a tremendous responsibility. The chief of police wants someone else to do his job. Wake up, Mayor, your chief is a bum!

  10. According to today’s Vicksburg Post, James Buie died of his shotgun wound yesterday. This is the first mention of Mr. Buie since the crime occurred.

  11. Your July 8, 2007 statement cites a Vicksburg Post article about 4 persons charged by the Department of Justice on drug charges and quotes numerous prior arrests. You then say “The District Attorney may have had good reason not to pursue indictment and prosecution of these thugs; an explanation of his rational would be of interest to the public”.

    The implication that these people were not prosecuted is incorrect. All have been prosecuted and sent to the penitentiary. The numbers of arrest do not correspond to our record so the remaining arrests were either misdemeanors (which are prosecuted by others) or were not in this jurisdiction.

    Michael Tyler – we have 6 charges (not 15) Michael was convicted in 1993 of aggravated assault and sentenced to 8 years. He was convicted in 1993 of possession of cocaine and sentenced to 3 years. He was convicted in 1998 of possession of a firearm by a felon and served 1 year. One charge of possession of cocaine was dismissed when he pled to the 1993 charge. There have been no arrests since 1998.

    Charles Price – was convicted of sale of cocaine in 1988 and sentenced to 4 years. He was convicted for possession of cocaine in 1990 and sentenced to 3 years. He was convicted of sale of cocaine in 1990 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

    He has 2 pending charges of sale of cocaine.

    Kenny Tyler – was convicted in 1995 for sale of cocaine and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Other charges were dismissed by the judge, No Billed by the Grand Jury, barred by misdemeanor prosecution, dismissed when the confidential informant died ( of natural causes) or no file ever received from the police department.

    Christopher Walker – has 2 felony files (not 7). He was convicted in 1996 for sale of cocaine and received 3 years to serve. The other charge of sale of cocaine is pending.

    The Trevillion brothers – after the article appeared linking them to a 1996 murder charge implying they were charged with murder but pled to aggravated assault, the Post ran a correction the next day that someone else in the group pled guilty to the homicides and was sentenced to 37 years to serve (he is still in prison). I also wrote a letter to the editor explaining the true facts.

    The Trevillion’s were age 16 and 19 at the time and were sentenced to 10 years and 15 years for aggravated assault. Ballistics proved someone other than them fired the fatal shots. I don’t think a jury would have convicted them of murder, so we let them plea to aggravated assault on another person who was wounded in the shooting.

  12. I am appalled and sickened by the lack of police protection within the city of Vicksburg. I live in the Historic Garden District and own and operate a B&B. On Friday night July 6th, around 11 pm, 3 men tried to break into my home. The threw a brick onto the front porch but fortunately did not break any windows. They first tried to gain entry at my front door. Then they brazenly walked around my porch and tried to gain entry at my back door. By sheer conincidence I was downstairs turning off the lights when I heard my front gate open and then the loud pounding on my front door and windows, I ran to the kitchen and called 911. I told the operator that men were trying to break into my home. While I am on the phone with 9ll in the kitchen I hear them at my kitchen door and see my doorknob being moved back and forth. I was frozen with fear. I then ran through the dining room into the parlor and up the stairs to make sure other possible entrances were locked. I snuck quietly back into the house and watched out of a window as they ran through my back yard and jumped the fence into another B&B property. By this time I was frantic and asked the 911 operator what was taking the police so long to respond… I was told, “well there is just a lot going on tonight”. I remained on the line with the 911 operator until the police finally arrived- 18 minutes later. The officer who took my report had difficulty understanding my address, as he was on his radio and incorrectly gave our address 3 different times. I knew then and there that he did not care. I thought- you have just experienced Vicksburg’s finest- and the guy can’t even get my address right. I asked for extra patrol and have yet to see a police car in my neighborhood. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!!!! I am a business that earns tax revenue for this crime riddled city and I get absolutely no return on my investment in regards to police protection. I am sick to death of being a prisioner in my own home, I am sick to death of the criminals who prey our streets, I am sick to death of hearing what cannot be done in this city to protect it’s residents.
    Several business owners and homeowners in our neighborhood have tried many times to get some city help to get our neighborhood cleaned up. But alas, nothing is ever done. There are city codes and ordinances that are being violated every day in our neighborhood- code violations that are, no doubt several years old – my question is this- who is supposed to be enforcing the codes? and second, why are they not doing their job??????? It isn’t rocket science- those persons who violate the codes and ordinances should be held accountable. Maybe, just maybe, if we got rid of the slums, we would undeniably reduce the crime in our neighborhood.
    I find it a travesty that the so called “Scenic Drive” signs posted in our neighborhood have arrows directing our tourists right through the most deplorable, unkept slums of this city. The city officials have selective blindness and turn a deaf ear to our pleas. As a city official- I would be embarrassed to blatently direct our tourists through these slums because believe me, that is the image they take away with them- never to return.
    Vicksburg is moving in a direction all right, unfortunately, it is the wrong direction.

  13. I can certainly agree with your opinion of 911 service. On the night of my incident (a Monday) I called 911, of course; during the course of the conversation the 911 operator asked my present address twice (Clay Street), also the address of the incident. When I told her the incident occurred “beside St. Paul’s Church,” she asked, “Which St. Paul’s church is it?” Then, when the police arrived, I learned that the 911 operator had told them I was waiting INSIDE St. Paul’s Church. Fortunately, the police knew where I lived, and decided to check here.
    One other thing… On Wednesday after the incident I called the police department and asked to speak to Chief Moffett. Instead I was transferred to Deputy Chief O’Bannon. I asked O’Bannon about adding additional patrols downtown, and he asked why I wanted them. I replied, “Because of the incident I was involved in.” And he asked, “What incident?” So, our Deputy Chief wasn’t even aware that one of our citizens had been shot at by a thug two nights before. Do they read the crime reports?

  14. the post either lacks reporters in the crime beat section or it doesn’t want to report it at all. Another fact. Since we still don’t have a cinema why doesn’t the post show cinema showtimes in Jackson instead? That should be common courtesy on thier part.

  15. I have lived in downtown Vicksburg for 5 years. I have had tens-of-thousands of dollars of property stolen from my family and me. My property has been vandalized many times. Less than a block from my home, there is consistent drug activity and prostitution. The activity from the clubs spreads to the entire neighborhood. I have asked for extra patrols for my area. This is an extreme joke!!! My children never play outside; it is too dangerous.

    I have reported to the police department, the mayor’s office, and to my alderman about the crime problems that I am having. The mayor, that I supported in the last election, will not return my phone calls. The alderman told me that he notified the chief-of-police about the problem. The chief-of-police does nothing. As a matter of fact, in one conversation that he and I had on the telephone, he stated to me, “ya know lady, you have a lot to say , but you don’t know when to shut-up.”

    The insurance cost on my property has tripled in 5 years. My property taxes continue to increase even though my property value and police services decrease in value.

    The city spends OUR money on “beautification projects” etc; however, until it cleans the criminal trash from the street, Vicksburg will continue to be a trashy, thug infested city.

  16. Really you writing very well. Thanks for good informations.

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