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Summit

Tiny Summit needs room for police to work

By MATT WILLIAMSON

Enterprise-Journal

SUMMIT, Miss. (AP) - There's a running joke in Summit: If you

want the police, go to the Shell station.

"If you own a quick store in a small town, the police

department is the best security you can have," Assistant Police

Chief Ken Stockman said.

Summit's dark blue police cars are a familiar sight at the

convenience store that sits on the corner of one of the town's

busiest intersections. It has free coffee for police and a good

view of potential speeders and people who run stop signs.

And save for an 18-by-18-foot corner office in the back of Town

Hall, there's no other place for police to be when they're not

answering calls or on patrol.

Summit officials say a new police station is long overdue.

They're applying for a $223,875 in USDA Rural Development grant

funding to build one. If approved, Summit would have to come up

with a $74,625 match, and the town is trying to get that shored up

in the form of a Mississippi Development Authority Small

Municipalities grant.

Officials want to build a new police station on the north side

of Town Hall, on top of what's now a gravel parking lot. Parking

would be moved to the northeast corner of the lot Town Hall

occupies.

While town officials say Summit's crime is lower per capita

compared to neighboring municipalities - police have filed 1,583

reports, mostly for misdemeanor and drug infractions, plus a couple

of robberies and felony thefts this year - the current arrangement

with the police department still has the potential for volatility.

The biggest reason officials say Summit needs to get its police

force into a building of its own is the fact that Town Hall is open

'round the clock.

"It never shuts down. The police station's always open," Mayor

Percy Robinson said.

Other problems persist.

There's no interview room for suspects, and no place to detain

them.

"This is all we have" in the way of detention, Robinson said,

pointing to a chair next to one of two desks in the office.

Victims and suspects of crimes are often interviewed in the same

office at the same time, making some situations dicier than others,

especially when dealing with domestic violence cases.

"When there's a domestic disturbance and both sides of the

family are here, there's no way we can control it," Robinson said.

And when police do arrest someone, there's nothing to stop the

suspect's family members from barging in and getting belligerent

with officers. Locking up evidence and weapons leaves much to be

desired.

When municipal court is held in Town Hall, inmates line the

hallway outside the main board room, which is used for court

proceedings one day a week.

"We're talking about the jailhouse orange, the guys we have to

bring up from (the county jail in) Magnolia," Robinson said.

The knob to the police department's office door is a jury-rigged

nail. Power strips plugged into power strips clog an electrical

outlet and collect dust on a cracked, filthy, decades-old tile

floor.

"We have no room," Robinson said. "Can you function in one

room? No. There's no way you can function in one room."

Officials say a new police station will vastly improve public

safety and overall quality of life for both officers and residents.

Blueprints call for an interview room, evidence and weapons

vault, secure glass-encased central office that will be the first

contact visitors have with police personnel, break room for

officers, small detention facility and other features.

"It would get us out of this hole," Stockman said.

Selling Summit as a nice place to live would be a difficult job

if someone walked into Town Hall and noticed the makeshift

headquarters for public safety, he said.

"If you came to live in Summit and I tell you this is the

police department, you'd just laugh," Stockman said.

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Information from: Enterprise-Journal,

http://www.enterprise-journal.com

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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