In just 11 days, the city of Hattiesburg has seen over 40 auto burglaries and 10 stolen vehicle cases, and authorities are attributing that increase to the summer months.
Ward 1 Hattiesburg City Councilman Jeffrey George said it's something that has to stop, and he has requested additional patrols in certain areas.
"We want people to feel safe and we want them to not have to worry about their belongings at night," George said. "Even though it is the summer, we've got to ensure year-round that this is something that people aren't worried about in Hattiesburg Mississippi."
George drafted a letter on Wednesday to Hattiesburg Police Chief Anthony Parker and Assistant Chief Frank Misenhelter. George wrote:
"As you know, the Highlands Neighborhood has experienced a marked increase in crime recently, with a spate of break-ins, vandalism and car thefts. Thank you for sending Capt. Branden McLemore to the neighborhood meeting Monday; residents appreciated the opportunity to ask him questions, and he gave some great advice.
Several people remarked that they would like to see a more visible police presence in the neighborhood, especially during the summer, which appears to be a period of heightened criminal activity. The perception is that HPD patrols are limited primarily to North 31st Avenue, 7th Street, Campbell Drive, and Beverly Hills Road. I am requesting that your department please make an effort to expand patrols so that police vehicles are visibly seen driving on streets like North 34th Avenue, Rosewood Drive, Fernway Drive, Hillside Drive and other streets near the Highlands Cemetery. These are the areas where many of the most recent problems have occurred.
Thank you very much for your help with this matter, and for all you do to keep Hattiesburg safe."
Lamar County has seen its share of auto burglaries as well over the past three weeks.
"We've had about 15 auto burglaries in the last three weeks, primarily around the west 4thStreet area and Oak Grove," said Lamar County Sheriff Danny Rigel. "We have seen an increase, but we think it's probably going to be the same individuals, there're creatures of habit, they are opportunist, they are looking for a door that's unlocked."
Rigel said they have also had four stolen vehicles, all that have been recovered in Hattiesburg.
"The most important thing you can do is to lock your doors at night so that doesn't happen," George said.
Almost every case for Lamar County and Hattiesburg, the vehicles have been left unlocked or with the keys inside.
"I call it window shopping," Rigel said. "If they don't see anything and the car is locked, they are usually going to leave it alone, because there is no reason to break a window and draw attention to yourself. When the doors are unlocked they are going to rifle through it because they can do it pretty quietly, but if you leave something expensive on the seat and the door is locked, yeah…there's a good chance they're going to take it."
George said with his new role on the city council, he wants everyone to work together, including the police so the department is fully-staffed.
"We want to work together with the police department to ensure that they have fully staffed police officers so they can make these patrols happen," George said.
"It's not inherent to just Lamar County, it's happening everywhere," Rigel said. "I've been in contact with sheriffs and police chiefs all over the area, trying to get some information and share leads, and stuff like that and our investigators have too, our investigators are working with local agencies and the local counties to try to put an end to it. Just because your car is parked out front, or in the garage, or near your front door, it can still happen, people will still take valuables or what's inside."
Rigel said he has already set up multiple directed patrols in certain areas to combat the problem. HPD Assistant Chief Misenhelter also replied to members of city council as well:
"We have already established additional patrols in the area that Councilman George highlighted in his memo. We discussed these issues with all supervisors today during our monthly COMPSTAT meeting. Residents should start seeing additional patrols immediately. if we can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to call on us."
In 2016, the Hub City saw a total of 62 auto burglaries in July and only 5 stolen vehicles.
If you have any information regarding any of the crimes, contact your local law enforcement agency, or Metro Crime Stoppers at 601-582-STOP.
Hattiesburg: (Since July 1st)- 44 auto burglaries
Hattiesburg: (Since July 1st)- 10 stolen vehicles
Lamar County: (Last 3 weeks)- 15 auto burglaries
Lamar County: (Last 3 weeks)- 4 stolen vehicles
Petal: (Since July 1st)- 2 auto burglaries
Petal: (Since July 1st)- 0 stolen vehicles