Crime

Body cams top Biloxi police chief’s list of 2016 achievements

Biloxi police arrest a man they said was driving impaired during Cruisin’ The Coast in October 2015 and then took a swing at an officer and tried to elbow him in the groin. Police used a Taser to subdue the man in the incident on U.S. 90.
Biloxi police arrest a man they said was driving impaired during Cruisin’ The Coast in October 2015 and then took a swing at an officer and tried to elbow him in the groin. Police used a Taser to subdue the man in the incident on U.S. 90. calee99@sunherald.com File

Violent crimes in the city decreased significantly in 2016, according to a Biloxi Police Department report.

Also, 70 percent of 120,000 calls for service came from police officers who saw problems out in the community. These statistics and others will be highlighted Wednesday during the annual State of the City address by Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich.

But as proud as Police Chief John Miller is of those accomplishments, he said the department’s greatest achievement of the year was getting body-worn cameras.

“We know that it’s helped,” he said. “Any time people know they’re on video, they tend to control themselves better. And the officers know they’re on camera.”

The Police Department spent 2 1/2 years studying which body-cam system “was the best for the money,” and chose Utility Inc.’s Bodyworn Camera system at a cost of $400,000, Miller said.

“And it was done without one single dollar from taxpayers,” he said. “We have federal drug-forfeiture money to pay for it. The company financed it for three years and the money is in the bank to pay it.”

Police officials have been able to settle several complaints from people who claimed an officer did or said something when a body-cam recording showed otherwise, he said.

The system also has several features for officer personal safety. For instance, if a body cam is off and an officer falls on the ground, the system turns the body cam on.

Decreases in crimes

Miller said he’s pleased to see decreases in felony crime trends as shown in an annual report and a three-year report obtained by the Sun Herald.

Aggravated assaults in 2016 were down by 47 percent. Forty-six were reported, compared with 87 in 2015.

Sexual assaults decreased by 46 percent, with 37 reported. The previous year, 68 were reported.

Robberies decreased 26 percent, with 77 reported. Burglaries were down by nearly 9 percent, with 792 reported.

Three homicides occurred in 2016, compared with four the previous year, and arrests were made in all three cases, Miller said.

Community support and officer involvement are crucial to reducing crime numbers, he said.

The fact that most calls come from officers who are patrolling their areas shows proactive law enforcement makes a difference, he said. It shows officers are getting involved in issues they see and trying to help deter or resolve problems.

“I’m extremely proud of the way the officers handle themselves in the community,” Miller said.

People also are becoming more familiar with using a crime-mapping section on the city website that shows what crimes have been reported in their neighborhoods or other areas.

Community involvement high

Miller said the department has reorganized its bicycle patrols, which ride on Main, Lameuse and neighboring streets, and has helped start a “business watch” program to help deal with businesses’ concerns, such as suspicious persons and those who loiter.

Police serve on the boards of groups such as the Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence and Open Doors Homeless Coalition, he said. Police have hosted several cookouts for the homeless at Loaves & Fishes soup kitchen and a cookout for Empty Bowls, a fundraiser for the homeless held at the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center in Ocean Springs. Police also team up with the Seashore Mission in its collaborative efforts to help the homeless.

“When the temperature drops below 40 degrees, we coordinate taking people to the cold-weather shelter in D’Iberville,” Miller said.

Coast Transit Authority provides free bus rides and police provide security.

“We have a great relationship with our community,” Miller said. “We engage each other on topics of mutual interest and do our best to solve problems. I’m very proud of our community partners.”

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

Felony crime trends in Biloxi

Crime

2016

2015

2014

Burglaries

792

866

807

Robberies

77

104

98

Sexual assaults

37

68

52

Aggravated assaults

46

87

56

Murders

3

4

3

Biloxi Police Department

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