Gulfport Police Chief Speaks on Crime Watch (Bonus Track: Hard Candy, Redux)

Believe it or not, my voice is not the loudest and my post about some horrible things a (now former) member of a Gulfport Crime Watch page posted – and a (now former) admin refused to delete is not what spurred the city to act. My voice is but one of many in this instance, because Gulfport city management and police heard from several residents and business owners who were shocked and scared by the statement and – more importantly – the (now former) admin’s assertion that he “saw nothing” that warranted action.

Responding to complaints from members of a local crime watch Facebook page – I can’t share the link because the page has gone “underground” and more on that in a bit – the chief took some steps to fix the problem. I encourage you to read his latest blog post. If you really, truly can’t be bothered to read it, just know this: He reiterated that while GPD tries to help any crime watch type of group as resources allow, this group is not a city group. He also added that, in light of recent events, the city required the group sign a standard agreement (well, it’s standard in Gulfport) that includes agreeing they won’t violate the city’s human rights ordinance. Effectively, the next time this happens, this group can’t use city facilities anymore.

I also found the last paragraph quite interesting:

“While I cannot speak to the status of the ‘Gulfport Community Crime Watch’, it is important to note that this is not the only such group in town. Crime watch is, at its very heart, a simple and informal arrangement between neighbors. If anyone is interested in forming a crime watch organization anywhere in Gulfport, please feel welcome to contact us for information on how to get started.”

If I had to guess, I would guess our chief perhaps wants to start a real crime watch, possibly one with trained volunteers and ongoing education. If I’m correct, it’s about damn time. Gulfport does have one other Facebook group that has less bickering, casting aspersions and placing blame and more “be on the lookout” type of neighborhood watch bulletins, and while it’s not run the police department or partnered with them in any way, you may want to hop over and like the page. I mean, it isn’t nearly as entertaining a read as the other crime watch page, but it does seem to post more actual information about crime and safety (and lost dog) related occurrences, so that’s kind of useful.

I suggest this because Gulfport Crime Watch may not let you join their group if you can’t prove yourself. Before I continue, let me be clear: Many of my neighbors and friends and acquaintances belong to that group, and when I refer to Gulfport Crime Watch, I refer to the people managing the page, not the entire group. Which is now a “closed” Facebook group that has apparently decided to conduct interviews before allowing people to join the group. Now, I’m no longer in the group – apparently I’m part of the problem, which I’ve heard before from better – but from screen shots I’ve seen of the discussion taking place over there, the entire group gets to vote on every new member. That’s 218 people as of this afternoon, and before the admin will approve your request to join, you have to state why you want to join, whether you live in Gulfport, and so forth. If they determine your interest is, in essence, pure, then they will allow you to join.

They are currently debating whether or not to allow the editor of the local paper and the local reporter “in” to the group. I would suggest to them that they probably go ahead and give those two a pass, even though neither lives in Gulfport and even though one of them is a good friend. One of the former group administrators wrote “I remember a reporter. Kinda iffy”  and I’m pretty sure he meant me, which is funny, because some of the posts in this group tell me the leadership fails to realize that had the admin deleted the first comment, there would have been no blog post, no city action, no cadre of angry and fearful citizens calling the city… in short, their lack of accountability hurt them, not my pulling back the sheet.

Making a crime watch group a “members-only” scenario smacks a little bit of a good ol’ boys club, and I’m not sure they aren’t making a whole lot more trouble for themselves. The new admin – who really does seem to want to get things refocused and under control but some of the inmates aren’t having any of that nonsense now that he’s giving them a voice in how they run the asylum – is so busy making rules and voting people on or off the island, it doesn’t seem there’s much crime watch going on over there anymore.

I hope fervently someone takes Chief Vincent up on his offer to start a legitimate crime watch program, one he feels confident supporting.

Some days I can’t believe humans actually managed to put a man on the moon, I really can’t.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.

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