Some in Vancleave pray for protection after rash of crime - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Some in Vancleave pray for protection after rash of crime

VANCLEAVE, MS (WLOX) -

Some Vancleave residents on edge after a rash of burglaries in the quiet community say they're praying for more peace and law enforcement presence. A meeting is set for Thursday night to discuss crime prevention in the community, and begin a Neighborhood Watch program. Citizens and county leaders are hoping the meeting will help make a difference.

The pastor and parishioners at First Baptist Church Vancleave had a lot to pray about Sunday. One prayer request was for protection and safety in their tight-knit community.

"With the economy the way it is, people are getting desperate. And we are outside of the big city and maybe an easy target," said resident Larry Hammonds.

Since late last year, criminals have reportedly been targeting the rural community by kicking in the doors of homes and taking weapons, electronics, and other items of value. Some arrests have been made, but that hasn't eased worries.

"A know a lot of folks in Vancleave say, 'Do you mind watching my house while I am gone?' They come together as a tight community, but there is still a fear," said resident Randy McKee

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell has now setup a community-wide crime prevention meeting this week to help keep the bad guys away. County Supervisor John McKay said that's a great idea because the population has increased by at least 15 to 20 percent since 2005.

"I think it is long overdue. I think we have always encouraged, from the Board of Supervisors, that we have more patrols. In fact, we do have more patrols in the area than we have had in the past because this area has grown since Hurricane Katrina with people moving away from the coast to the Vancleave area," said Supervisor McKay.

Business Owner Deanna Cole Bickham and longtime resident Allen Williams plan to be at this week's meeting. They want to join the Neighborhood Watch program that's in the works.

"We have to do a better job of communicating when there are problems. But even when we identify problems, we need the responsiveness of our leaders to take action," Williams said. "As a business owner, that is very important because I can't be at my home 24/7. People can't be at their homes 24/7, but you have neighbors. We want to protect our property, we want to protect our loved ones, and this is how we can do it today," Bickham said.

These folks hope the attempt to deter crime will be the first step in getting their prayers answered for a safer community.

The community meeting will be held Thursday at 6pm the Vancleave Public Library. Sheriff Ezell and other law enforcers will be there to discuss crime prevention in the community, and the beginning of Neighborhood Watch programs.

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