Coast Crime Commission Looks At This Year's Murder Rate

The number of murders along the Mississippi Gulf Coast has nearly doubled from 200. There were 22 murder victims in 2000. So far this year, more than forty homicides have been reported in Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson counties.

Coast Crime Commission Director Bob Waterbury says assaults have always dominated violent crime statistics, and now homicide numbers are becoming more significant.

"There's a lot of beating up going on down here," Waterbury said. "I used to say there's no murders,  just getting beat, but it's murders too."

Crime Commission numbers along with WLOX research show that there have been 41 murders since Jan. 1st. Waterbury says in his eight years on the job, the highest number of murders he's seen in one year is 31. However, he says there is no reason for people to become alarmed. Waterbury says crime is steady overall and our violent crime rate is extremely low compared to other parts of the country.

"When you look at what's going on in the nation [the violent crime rate numbers] are not awesome," Waterbury said. "We live in the best place in the world. Our violent crime is only three percent of the total crime."

The question on many minds is why. Waterbury says motives range from jealousy and revenge to drug deals gone bad. However, he says things really aren't that bad thanks to the excellent work of about 1,400 law enforcement officers across the Coast.

Waterbury says he thinks the crime rate would go down if more police departments had automatic fingerprint identification equipment. He says that way police could better identify criminals that come into our area.

By Danielle Thomas