Post Katrina Crimes Have Chiefs Rethinking Their Approaches

The Waltons moved to Broadmoor Place last April.

"When I first moved here, I used to take walks and ride my bike," Mary Walton said while holding her dog Cujo. "But now, I just don't. I just stay close to home."

Walton's home is nestled in a neighborhood that was once so safe. But since Katrina, a rash of burglaries, drug deals and two murders have shaken the core of this Gulfport community.

"I just don't feel safe," she said.

Gulfport's police chief says the quickest crime fighting solution is based on teamwork, because according to Alan Weatherford, "We have to partnership with our citizens to make a difference." Gulfport isn't the only city with post storm crime issues.

Every police chief at the Mississippi Coast Crimestoppers luncheon has seen crime stats spike. John Dubuisson says it's a problem in Pass Christian.

"There's going to be problems with crime until we get back on our feet full force," the Pass Christian chief said.

Growing crime numbers are troubling trend in Waveland, too. Jimmy Varnell is Waveland's chief.

"We're just having to take a step back and take a different approach," he said. "We used to be dealing with people that we really knew or had a good history on. Now, we're dealing with people that we've never dealt with before."

Governor Haley Barbour announced his approach to combat crime is to stiffen penalties for felons caught with guns. "All across our state, judicial dockets are overloaded and our prosecutors and law enforcement agents are overworked," Barbour said in a written statement.

Local chiefs think their best crime fighting tool may be their squad cars.

"Patrol, as much patrol as we can get out on the streets. And be seen as frequently as we can be," said Dubuisson.

In Gulfport, Walter Walton has noticed added patrols in the Broadmoor area.

"I definitely have seen more of a police presence in the area," he said.

Chief Weatherford said that would continue.

"That's where we're going to make a difference," Weatherford said. "That's where we're going to be able to reduce crime. Everybody working together. It's building a safer Gulfport together."