Give and take on Hub City crime draws plethora of views

Like many cities nationwide, Hattiesburg annually stages a night out against crime.

Tuesday, Hattiesburg had a night about crime.

About 300 people attended a public gathering at the downtown Train Depot to take part in a discussion about the status of the public’s safety in Hattiesburg.

Sponsored by Hattiesburg City Council, much of HPD’s top command — including Chief Frazier Bolton, Assistant Chief Frank Misenhelter and Maj. Hardy Sims — was on hand to listen, respond and talk with those in attendance.

Assistant Chief Misenhelter talks about Tuesday night’s meeting on crime at the Train Depot.
Tim Doherty/Hattiesburg American

Always a hot-button topic, conversation on crime has been heated even more so by three homicides within the past two weeks, including two in less than a 24-hour period.

Police have made arrests in all three cases, and in each case, a person has been charged with murder. Murder suspects were arrested and charged within 48 hours of the back-to-back killings in late November, and HPD charged a man Tuesday with murder in a Saturday night drive-by shooting death.

“We aren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination,” Misenhelter said. “But we don’t just sit behind a desk and drink coffee.

“I take it personally. I don’t want to see any murders in Hattiesburg. Murders make us look bad as a city, and I know that.”

About 25 attendees took to the podium Tuesday night, in a comment period that ranged from sane to sarcastic, purposeful to plaintive, inclusive to derisive, off topic to on point.

“Y’all want to stop crime? Get behind ’em,” John Chain said. “What people have to realize is we have a great city and a great police department. We have to support them.”

Many spoke to what they perceive as a lack of support of the police force because of political stalemates between council and the administration.

“Our city leaders cannot put aside their differences to communicate with each other,” Matt Carr said. “It takes compromise to achieve a goal, and when you have two people, and each one is going in a different direction, you have to compromise to find a place in the middle.”

Though those on the force recently received a $5,000 raise, some argued that officers were not making enough, often leaving Hattiesburg after training for better-paying jobs elsewhere.

“The young man over here said it ain’t about the money,” said the Rev. Arthur Siggers. “Well, you’re full of it.

“We ought to compare the statistics and the numbers and then ask the council why haven’t police officers received adequate pay for the jobs that they do.”

Others talked about doing more in communities, in neighborhoods, to keep better watch in the areas where they live.

“We wave at people and we don’t even know their names,” Siggers said. “We’ve got to get back to the neighborhoods.”

And take the discussions of Tuesday night back to those neighborhoods.

“The people who need to hear this, what we’re saying, they are not here (Tuesday) night,” Christopher Sansom said. “The leaders of yesterday are here, but if you take this back out there, and don’t do anything with it, you haven’t done nothing.”

A Tuesday night meeting in Hattiesburg drew about 300 people to the Train Depot.
Tim Doherty/Hattiesburg American

Council President Kim Bradley said he hoped Tuesday’s meeting would alleviate some of the concerns that some in the community have about Hattiesburg.

“I was little disappointed in some of the topics that strayed around, but my hope for this was that some people would walk away feeling at least a little better about things, and if that happened, then I think it was a good thing.”