1997 Crime Statistics

Following is a speech delivered by Biloxi Police Chief Tommy Moffett regarding the 1997 crime statistics for the City of Biloxi. The speech was delivered in March 1998 to the Biloxi Rotary Club at Mary Mahoney’s Old French House Restaurant in Biloxi.

Good afternoon, and thank you for having me here today. Today, I’m going to talk about the Biloxi Police Department, and the job we’ve been doing and the job we’re continuing to do to keep our city safe for you and me, the 53,403 people who live in our city, and the 19 million visitors we welcome each year.

That’s an awful lot of people living and visiting our city, and I have to tell you our officers see a lot of things while patrolling the city each day.

Let me give you an example. Just last week, one of our patrol officers pulled over a car going 82 miles an hour right by the Biloxi Lighthouse.

There was an elderly couple in the car, with the man driving. The officer said, Sir I pulled you over because I
clocked you at 82 mph, which is a little over our speed limit, and actually every speed limit in the country.

So the man said, “Son, that just can’t be. I had my cruise control set on 55.” His wife leaned over and said, “Now, honey you know I told you in Gulfport that the cruise control was set on 80 and it was too fast.” The man looked at his wife and said, “Woman would you shut up and let me handle this.”

The officer also saw that the gentleman didn’t have his seat belt fastened and notified him that it was a state law in Mississippi, like is most other states, that you must wear your seat belt. “You’re wrong again, son,” the man said. “When I saw you pulling me over, I unfastened my seatbelt so I could get my license out of my wallet.” And the wife chimed in again. “Now, honey, you know I told you this morning that you ought to fasten your seatbelt in case we get in an accident.” The man looked over and said, “Now, woman, if you interrupt again, I’m going to lock you in the trunk. Now shut up.” At this point, the officer leaned into the car and looked at the woman. “Ma’am, does your husband
always talk to you this way?” She looked the officer in the eye and said, “No, not all the time. It’s only when he’s been drinking.”

Thank you. I’m happy to tell you that this incident didn’t really take place here in Biloxi. In fact, one of the things I’m here to talk about is how we’re not seeing many of these type incidents in our city, despite a 15 percent increase in
population in the past five years and thousands and thousands of more people on our roads. I’m proud to say that we don’t see as many DUIs on our roads. We dropped from 1125 two years ago to under 900 in the past year. We’re finding that we don’t have as many marginal drinkers driving on our roads. The people we’re arresting for DUI have higher blood-alcohol levels.

That’s because the Biloxi Police Department is being effective in getting the message out. We want the streets in Biloxi to be safe. We don’t want you to put yourself or someone else in jeopardy. The statistics for DUIs in the
City of Biloxi are indicative of the trend we’re seeing in crime fighting and crime prevention here in Biloxi. We’re continuing to see decreases in all levels of crime. Another telling statistic is the rate of burglaries in our city. In 1996 we had 772 break-ins. In 1997, we had 757. With the tremendous growth that we’ve seen and the growth that we’re continuing to see, the new subdivisions, the new apartment complexes, the many new businesses, when you put it all together, we’re keeping burglary on par. There is no increase. There’s a decrease. Anytime crime doesn’t increase by a significant amount, it’s a positive.

Let’s look at the categories. The numbers tell the story. First I’m going to go over the areas where we’re seeing significant improvements, then I’m going to address the areas that we’re working hard to improve.

[Go over from top to bottom. Make note of the fact that major crimes like auto thefts, burglary and homicides are at a five-year low.]

There are a couple of categories that are indicative of the growth that we have seen. One is larceny and theft. One of the things that is driving up this category is the amount of traffic. You might wonder how traffic can increase our larceny and theft numbers. Let me tell you.

All of these cars need gas. And with so much traffic, some drivers think they can pull into a gas station, get gas
and get lost in traffic drive off without paying. We’re seeing a lot of gas drive offs. Which is theft. Thefts from autos are on the increase. [explain.]

Another factor is shoplifting. With all of the business in our stores and shops, with the big expansion at Edgewater Mall, a lot of people think they’ll get lost in the crowd. Those cases are adding up, too.

Another statistic we’ve seen increase right along with the increase in resident population is the number of assaults. There are a couple of factors that are leading to this increase. One involves juveniles in schools, something that, ironically, we just saw in the national news. Several years ago, the law in Mississippi was changed involving students fighting in schools. Teachers and school administrators are compelled to call the police on every incident of fighting in school. This results in an assault statistic.

But the leading cause of reported assaults is a change in the law regarding domestic violence. The law used to read that a person would have to file charges for a suspect to be arrested on a domestic assault. Now, when a police officer is called to a domestic assault, if there is evidence of an assault, the officer SHALL make an arrest. No one has to file charges. This is an important change, and one, I might add, that was needed.

It’s for the better. Domestic assaults are the most dangerous calls our officers respond to. They are emotionally charged and tense situations.

We get the call from the spouse we investigate and, in a number of cases, we end up being the bad guys in the eyes of the people who called for our help.

It’s very difficult to police what’s going on behind closed doors in someone’s home.

But what are doing to improve our statistics even more? Now let me turn my attention to answering that question.

The Mayor likes to say that we have the best-trained, best- equipped and best-paid police department in the state. I
agree, but we can’t stop there. Training is ongoing, and I will continue to strive to get better pay and benefits for our hard-working officers. That’s because I expect more of them.

We’re not out patrolling simply to write tickets. We’re out there to keep the community safe. If we have to write tickets, that’s up to the person. If you operate your vehicle in a manner that is hazardous to the public, you’re going to get a ticket. If you drive drunk, you’re going to be arrested. That’s your decision. I’m telling you right now what we’re going to do.

But I have to believe that you’d rather meet one of your police officers in a much more relaxed setting maybe in your office or at lunch instead of on side of the road after being pulled over. Building a bond or partnership with the
public is what the Biloxi Police Department is about these days.

It’s called Community Policing, and we’re doing it because the Mayor and the City Council have given us the manpower and the training and the equipment to better serve you. By the way, the police and fire department budget has gone from about $5.3 million five years ago to $15 million today. We’ve gone from 85 sworn positions in the early ’90s to 138 sworn positions today.

We’ve purchased more than 100 vehicles just about a new vehicle for every officer in the department (even a Yukon for the Mayor) and we’re constantly training to keep up with the new trends and techniques to do a better job for you. Right now, we have one of the only certified accident reconstruction teams in the Southeast.

Why should you care about that? Because our being able to precisely reconstruct an accident and determine what happened and why, we can keep insurance rates down for everyone. That’s your Police Department
working for you.

With the additional officers on patrol, we are now in a position where we don’t have to run from call to call. We can spend time in the neighborhoods doing Community Policing and preventing burglaries and other crimes.

Officers are going into businesses on their beats, meeting the store owners and managers. They’re letting the people know who they are and seeing what they can do to make our neighborhoods and businesses safer. If businesses are having problems, we want to hear about it. If suspicious people or vehicles are in the area, we want to hear about it.

The job of the police officers doesn’t stop with law enforcement.

We notice things like burned out street lights, pot holes, and other things. When we see something like that, we notify the appropriate city department so that the repair process can begin. The way I look at it, we have the people on the streets patrolling so why not help with the total package. It gets back to what I said
about partnerships. We’re being a partner to the workers in Public Works, Parks & Recreation and Community Development.

And, in closing, the most important partnership is the one we have with
you, the citizens of this fine city. And I thank you for your support and words of encouragement that you have given me and the men and women in the Police Department.

I’ve been with the department for 24 years now. I’m proud of the fact that 12 of those years I have held the rank of chief. And I’m proud of the job that the Biloxi Police Department is doing, but I also know that we couldn’t do as good a job as we’re doing without your support.