Crime stats show violent crime is up in Gulfport - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Crime stats show violent crime is up in Gulfport

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

It seems yellow crime tape is becoming a common sight.

"I know that we certainly hear a lot more about it. It seems that over the last few months we been exposed to several murders, multiple murders," said criminal justice professor Dr. Karla Pope.

The number of murders among Harrison County cities has nearly doubled compared to last year.  D'Iberville Police have investigated six murders in 2011 compared to only one last year.  In Gulfport, police have responded to 12. 

However, numbers can be deceiving.

"The murders themselves are not related. Along the Gulf Coast it appears as though there have been more murders this year.  Look at it holistically. Last year in the city of Gulfport we have very few homicides. Nationally, the average is down," said George Chaix with the Gulfport Police Department.

Statistically, the number of violent crimes in Gulfport has increased by 18 percent.   That's the first increase in several years.  The city's largest increase in the last five years came in 2007 at 24 percent.

Violent crime is defined as homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

"We are really still a very safe community, and the state of Mississippi, we're still a relatively safe community.  So, there's no need for panic," said Pope.

The factors leading to violent crime or murder aren't always clear and are difficult to define.  Police say that in most murder cases, the assailant is known by the victim. 

"I don't think you should be aware to go out and walk your neighborhood, I think you need to be more aware," said Pope. "I think you need pay attention to the relationships you get into. I think you pay attention to the people that you hang out with."

While every death is a tragic loss, police don't believe recent circumstances will lead to mass crime.

A tool available to residents is crime mapping.  Gulfport police release crime statistics each quarter.  Residents can go online here, and see what is going on in their area.  Residents can even sign up for crime alert emails.

"It helps increase your situational awareness. It helps citizens become informed and educated about what's going on around them," said Chaix.

Police also advise residents to lock doors and be aware. It's simple and common advice, but police say those basic steps can make a big difference if followed.    

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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