GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It was standing room only at the second annual citywide community watch meeting in Gulfport Tuesday night. Police Chief Leonard Papania addressed the room full of concerned citizens and neighborhood watch captains about how they can help police stop crime in their communities.
"I think we're continuing to address crime, and we're not doing it by ourself. That's the most important part. We're doing it through a partnership with our community, and that's why our solve rates are good because we have people willing to come forward," said Chief Papania.
Many people who attended the meeting were not neighborhood watch captains, but citizens concerned about several crimes that have occurred in Gulfport since the beginning of the year.
"It's a concern because it doesn't just stay in one area, but that's not why we were here. We decided to come because of other concerns in our area," said Debbie Russell.
The 2014 crime statistics were also presented at the meeting. Violent felony crimes were down from 182 in 2013 to 181 in 2014. Homicides were up by five, with three in 2013 and eight in 2014. So far this year, there have been two homicides reported in Gulfport.
"Crime affects everybody. Being a citizen of Gulfport, I was born and raised here, basically. So, it's a concern,' said Sheila Sullivan.
Chief Papania wrapped up the meeting by asking citizens who are currently active in their community watch programs to continue to stay vigilant, and those who are not to work hand in hand with officers to make their communities safer.
"I think that since I've been talking with the police and asking them for things for my community, like more patrols, I do feel a little safer from what I did five or six years ago," said Terrence Collins.
Those who are interested in starting a neighborhood watch program in their community can contact Gulfport's Community Relations Division at (228) 868-5703 or email email@example.com.