Gulfport citizens express concern about crime in town hall meeting

Gulfport citizens express concern about crime in town hall meeting

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Two weeks after a pair of Gulfport men were killed within hours of each other, people in the community voiced their concerns in a town hall meeting Wednesday night.

Former elementary school teacher Christine Brice is creating a scrapbook with the names of young men who have been killed on the Coast in the past few years.

"This killing has got to stop, it's a better way," Brice said.

Looking for that better way, Gulfport City Council Person Ella Holmes- Hines hosted a town hall meeting with city leaders including the Mayor Billy Hewes and Police Chief Leonard Papania. The meeting was designed to find a way to stop a trend of violence that's led to 16 shootings in 2016.

"We have decided that this is not the trend that we want in our city," Holmes-Hines said.

Filled with concerned citizens, not a seat was empty inside the Isiah Fredericks Community Center.

"All of us here are worried about our community," one citizen said while speaking to the crowd.

In the audience were a handful of young people like Gabriel Williams, who played football at Gulfport High. Williams was able to offer some insight into what might cause the violence.

"A lot of youth have a clique mentality, like, you can only hang around these type of friends or those type of friends, and are like we don't like each other," Williams said. "To be honest, a lot of times they don't even know what they're mad about."

Chief Papania says people in the community are the first line of defense in preventing crime.

"When you are not satisfied with the conditions you're living in, you have to set the bar. That's when law enforcement and other entities can come in and help you achieve that goal," Papania said. "Law enforcement can't go in a community aside from a community and set the bar for them."

Brice says she's ready for the meeting to lead to results - and hopefully won't have to add any more names to her book.

"I've attended many meetings and it's time for action," Brice said.

In the meeting Mayor Billy Hewes noted that overall crime in Gulfport is down for the year, but violent crime has increased. Hewes did not give a percentage of the increase.

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