Public Safety Meeting encompasses 12 questions and lasts 22 minutes.

Public Safety Meeting encompasses 12 questions and lasts 22 minutes.

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A crowd of about 35 people, Vicksburg residents, officials with city and police officers, gathered in the board room at the City Hall annex tonight to attend a public-safety town hall meeting. Most of the attendees were uniformed officers with the Vicksburg Police Department; however Mayor George Flaggs Jr. who is also the Police Commission and Aldermen Michael Mayfield were also in attendance.

The panel on the dais consisted of the top cops in the city: Dept. Chief Robert Stewart, Chief Milton Moore, Capt. Penny Jones, Dept. Chief Eric Paymon and Lt. Johnnie Edwards.

Capt. Mike Bryant, public information officer, acted as moderator.

Questions for the town hall had to be submitted in advance, and attendees had the opportunity to hand in questions in the meeting, which allowed panelists to craft answers. Questions were limited to crime and public safety, although Bryant indicated the questions submitted ranged from the technical to ”grass roots” questions.

The first question had to do with drones, and asked how close the city was to having a drone on the scene at crimes.

“We sent five officers to school to learn drones,” Moore said. He added that drones can only be used by trained officers, and FAA regulations must be adhered to He said it would be “unreal” to put a drone on every shift. The way they’re being used now is mostly in search and rescue operations, and crowd management.

A couple of questions addressed the city’s juvenile curfew, one asking the age limit for the curfew. Minors under the age of 17 must be off the streets by midnight, Moore said.

Does having a juvenile curfew give offers probable cause to check people in crowds? Jones indicated that most of the time people in crowed are about to fight. “We have to get them going,” Jones said. If detained, juveniles will be sent to the juvenile detention center.

One question asked whether civilians are allowed on active crime scenes. A civilian should only be on a scene if they’re victims or authorized, the panel agreed; however, the law states that anyone can video or record police activity.

“With today’s technology, everyone has a cell phone. They’re going to start filming right away,” Jones said.

On a question regarding traffic enforcement, Moore said officers have written an average of 450 citations per month. “We remain focused on neighborhoods and businesses,” he said

He added that the force had stepped up patrols in downtown area. About two weeks ago, the Mayor put out feelers about putting cameras in garages downtown.

The next question was about the public downtown areas, “Can we put no loitering signs so that people can be removed?”

Signs must be on private property, the panel responded, and businesses can also post no solicitations signs.

The biggest concern are the homeless people, indicated Paymon. “By law, we can’t just arrest them for being in the downtown area,” he said. “if you see something out of the ordinary, give us a call.”

What are we doing to incentivize hiring and retention? Education incentives and special pay for experienced officers, Moore indicated. “We are doing different things to try and retain officers.” Paymon said.

Being a police officer has to be a calling, Jones said. “… It’s not like we’re making a million dollars an hour.” The money needs to be there to hire young people that expect more than the force can pay now.

The meeting adjourned after 22 minutes.