Economy not impacting crime, authorities say

Published 5:00 am Friday, August 1, 2008

In spite of food and fuel prices that are tightening everyone’spurse strings, local law enforcement officials said they have beensurprised to see that theft has not gone up noticeably within theirjurisdictions.

“No, I don’t see a difference,” Brookhaven Police Chief PapHenderson said. “I’ve been expecting it, but we haven’t seen adifference in the amount of thefts and robberies yet.”

Wesson Police Chief Chad O’Quinn said his department has alsobeen prepared for a rising crime rate, but so far has yet to seethe impact of rising prices.

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“I definitely concur with Chief Henderson,” he said. “I eventalked to my officers about that with fuel like it is, and I’m alsosurprised that we haven’t seen any additional crime.”

A June 11 article in U.S. News and World Reports said crime inthe South has gone up 0.7 percent so far this year, with thegreatest rises being seen in heavily urban areas.

Brookhaven, however, doesn’t fall into that category. With apopulation just under 14,000, the Homeseeker’s Paradise still findsitself well within the small-town demographic.

Wesson, of course, with 2,000 residents, goes withoutsaying.

Crime tends to be the exception rather than the rule in a townthat small, O’Quinn said. The biggest crime in Wesson this summerwas a home burglary involving some guns and other valuables, butmost of it was recovered quickly and the perpetrator turned himselfin to police within the week.

“Matter of fact, the only thing we’ve dealt with since theburglary earlier this summer is a petit larceny, and that was somekids stealing a bike,” O’Quinn said.

And in local rural areas, people are apparently making due onthe up and up as well. Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing saidhis department has seen no noticeable upswing in theft or othersimilar crimes in the wake of the cost crunches on energy andproduce.

Henderson said while reports might show what seems to be a risein thefts from the Summer 2007 to the Summer 2008, a closer lookwould potentially show much of the reason for that is that theBrookhaven Police Department is now covering an area three timeslarger than they were at the first half of last year after theannexation.

“You have to understand, the fact is that we still have muchmore area than we had in the past,” he said. “So our calls havecertainly gone up, but that’s in every area.”

Meanwhile, Henderson said, oftentimes when reports are talliedinto statistics, the actual outcome of the complaint is notrecorded. So, he said, if someone reports a purse stolen, and thenit turns out to have only been lost and is recovered, while thereport reflects that change, often the statistics do not.

“The biggest problem is the numbers are created when people callin a complaint of one nature and when the situation is resolved,the nature of that complaint is not updated,” he said. “So ifyou’re looking at statistics based on the topic, there’s room forerror.”