GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - South Mississippi's Boys in Blue spend countless hours sacrificing their safety to keep our streets and neighborhoods free of crime. Once the law enforcement officers of South Mississippi hit the streets, they know that their job is going to be nonstop. Crime is something that never sleeps, and it's up to these men and women to keep it at bay.
Gulfport officer Shaun Sebring hardly sees a moment that he's not responding to a call, or checking into suspicious activity. A lot of what he does depends on calls from people like you and me. According to Sebring, the best way to handle suspicious activity is to call it in. And any details you can provide are key.
Describe how the person looks, which way they traveled, and, if they're driving a vehicle, give a detailed description of it.
"That way if we get in that area, we can identify that person and see exactly what they're up to. And see if they're supposed to be in that area or if they're just passing through," said Sebring.
Response time depends on traffic and how many officers are available at that time. That's why Sebring says you need to stay on the phone for as long as possible.
"The longer we have the person online, the witness watching what's going on, the better chances we have of getting on the scene and identifying them," said Sebring.
There are other tactics that Sebring and his fellow officers use to fight crime. One of those is having an inside contact with the community, especially through community watches.
"I've worked in this area about seven years, so you get to know the people in the community, and they trust you, you know?" said Sebring, "They recognize me from the watch meeting and they can flag me down."
Sebring spends many hours of his day simply responding to calls. Sometimes these calls lead to a dead end. And other times, Sebring's sharp eye, alone, can catch something that seems out of place. He gets to know neighborhoods, and when he doesn't recognize someone walking the streets, he investigates.
When should you call to report suspicious activity?
"Call us about everything. That's what we're here to do, that's the service we provide. So, it doesn't bother us. A lot of people are like, 'I hate to bother you.' No, it's not a bother. It's what we're here to do."
It could be your call that helps solve a crime.
"It may be that one guy we've been looking for and he happened to be walking down the street while you were taking out the trash. Give us a call. We'll check him out," said Sebring.
WLOX is joining the fight against crime. Today, we'll open a crime watch hotline from 4 to 7pm. (We will post the number as soon as the phone lines open at 4pm.)
During that time, law enforcement officers will be standing by to answer your call about crime in your community. They're asking that you call and report anything suspicious. And your calls will be kept anonymous.
We're also going to have a special online-exclusive webcast focusing on neighborhood watch programs and crime stoppers. That begins at 3:30pm on WLOX.com.