Crime

Chief: 'We want to be a nuisance to petty criminals'

AMANDA MCCOY/SUN HERALD 
 
 Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania announced the identity of remains found Oct. 7 in Orange Grove and that an arrest had been made in the person's death.
AMANDA MCCOY/SUN HERALD Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania announced the identity of remains found Oct. 7 in Orange Grove and that an arrest had been made in the person's death.

GULFPORT -- A police roundup Tuesday that netted two felony arrests, nine misdemeanor arrests and eight served warrants may seem insignificant in the scheme of crimes. However, Police Chief Leonard Papania said it's part of a plan to reduce violent crime and short-circuit what he calls the criminal subculture.

"These little crimes, left unchecked, are the pathways to bigger crimes," he said Wednesday. "People are shooting each other over $10 in currency or drugs. That's part of the problem.

"I'd rather be a nuisance to the petty criminal than let it escalate and them become a violent criminal."

Is the plan working?

Statistics could indicate it is.

The city's violent-crime numbers, except for robberies, are down since January compared with the same period last year.

ShootingNumbers

Papania started periodic roundups to deal with violent crimes a year ago when he launched a campaign against the city's criminal subculture -- those who embrace a lifestyle of crime and violence.

By early April 2015, 22 people had been shot; 15 were wounded and five died.

Three homicides have been reported this year.

This year, there have been 18 aggravated assaults, which include non-fatal shootings, compared with 27 in the same period last year.

Robberies have increased from 24 to 36.

The spike in robberies, Papania said, is largely due to a string of robberies that resulted in related arrests.

Police keep an especially close eye on what Papania called index crimes: homicides, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assaults, simple assaults, burglary, larceny, auto thefts and arson.

The total of those nine crime types is down 9 percent.

Group A crimes, the most serious of crimes, are down 6 percent.

"It's the violent crime that gives us the greatest concern, making a human a victim and, in a lot of instances, lifetime effects, even injury or death," Papania said.

Typically, guns used by youth are stolen, he said.

"That's why we advocate that if you own weapons, secure them."

Papania said he often hears the argument that a secured gun can't be drawn quickly if needed.

"There's a greater likelihood of an accident in the home if they are not secured," he said. "If you own a gun, train with it, store it and be accountable."

Papania said he is always looking for ways to make the city safer, and ways residents can help.

"We need to adjust the bar of our standards," he said.

"Our families are being affected. We've got to quit being a voyeuristic society where we sit back and watch. We're a very judgmental group of people. I can get 10,000 opinions but only a few people are willing to step forward and take an active role in helping to make our city safer."

He said he hopes that will change.

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