Arledge vows to get county burglaries “under control”
Lowndes County has a new sheriff. Mike Arledge was sworn in early Tuesday morning and isn’t wasting any time in getting straight to work. At a promotion ceremony held at the Sheriff’s Department Tuesday night, the new sheriff told deputies that the department would be “working as team from here on out.”
In addition to focusing in the ongoing fight against drugs, Arledge is also investigating the latest rash of burglaries in the county. According to Wright, the sheriff’s department has worked 49 burglaries since Dec. 2. 2011. Wright says that while burglaries typically increase during the holiday season, “this year it’s quite a few more than we’re accustomed to seeing.”
Wright was quick to add though that it’s not just Lowndes County that has an increase in burglaries but surrounding counties as well, including Lee, Monroe and Pickens County in Ala.
Wright and Arledge both said they are aware that members of the community are “frustrated” and are adamant that the sheriff’s department is working hard to solve the cases and find those responsible. According to Wright, the department has increased manpower on patrol and investigators are following every lead, checking pawn shops and working with adjacent counties.
Arledge said he also wants to be more involved with members of the community and has plans for an interactive website where citizens can report suspicious activity. Arledge cited the Facebook group, “Columbus, MS Facebook Watch” as an example of “neighbors watching out for neighbors.”
Formed by Lynn Nordquist and Stevie Pyle, the page has an online community of over 2,200 members-and is growing by the day.
Norquist formed the group one night after she said she felt scared in her home for the first time. “I was at home with my kids and I’ve never been scared at home before but suddenly I was. I went and got my gun and put it by my bed. That’s when I knew I had to do something.”
Norquist says she started the online group as a way to be able to share information about local burglaries she wouldn’t know about otherwise.
“I stay on Facebook, that’s how I find out all my information. You get more information out of The Packet but I don’t have time to watch the news. I’m cooking dinner or putting my kids to bed when the six and ten o’clock news is on—I don’t have time. With this page, I can get on here when I have time.”
Common posts on the page give example of suspicious cars in certain areas with people giving updates when a home as been burglarized. Nordquist said the biggest surprise of all has been how eager people are to share information. “I was on the page the other night and found out my neighbor had gotten robbed. Would I have known that if it wasn’t for the group? I don’t know.”
Nordquist also mentioned that while a lot of posts mention owning a gun as a way to guard your home, there are other ways to protect yourself. “If you’re scared of a gun, don’t go buy a gun. I’m not saying carry a gun in your pocket and be willing to shoot it at anyone who looks at you wrong either. But you have to protect yourself. Be smart and lock your doors. If you’re walking alone at night be aware of your surroundings.”
Arledge said that he appreciates people like Nordquist who are involving themselves in the community and commends her effort. “We need more citizens to get involved. We can’t do it alone.”
In order to handle the recent outbreak of crime Arledge has already made several changes to the department, with his first item on the agenda being promotions. The new sheriff held a swearing in ceremony at the department on Tuesday night with nearly a dozen officers advancing their positions.
Arledge will be keeping Greg Wright as Chief Deputy but promoted Marc Miley to Major and Assistant Chief Deputy.
Arledge is also bringing in Bobby Grimes to head the Metro-Narcotics Unit. Taking the place of retiring Joey Brackin, Grimes is a veteran officer who has been involved in law enforcement since 1980. Grimes started his career as a patrolman at the Columbus Police Department before making the move to Lowndes County Deputy in 1984. Grimes transferred to the Bureau of Narcotics in 1990 and retired from Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics in February of 2009. Grimes also headed a cold case unit in Starkville before Arledge asked him to take the reigns in Metro. Grimes said he is looking forward to his new position and said “expanding the relationship” with the city is high on his priority list. Grimes also said he “isn’t a numbers guy”, explaining that for him, it’s about “quality, not quantity.”
“We’re going to be concentrating on major investigations, the biggest ones we can find. From the cartel down, if they’re in Lowndes County, we’re going to catch them. If you hit the major dealers it’s going to affect people on the street. That’s what we’re after.”
Arledge also said that as Sheriff, “I want to assure the citizens of Lowndes County that we are going to do everything in our power to get on top of this and deter the crime in our county. We’re going to be aggressive, we’re going to be out there. We’re going to take care of this.”