Crime on rise in countyBy MARLAN JONES,
The first week of the New Year in Simpson County brought three armed robberies that occurred in several locations around the county.
The first incident occurred on the morning of January 3, when a vehicle was driven through the entrance of D’Lo Truck Stop. The driver then exited the vehicle and proceeded to rob the store at gunpoint. The subject accused of this crime was identified as Elwood Bryce Leggett, who was arrested later that day by the Pearl Police Department.
Also on January 3 at approximately 10 p.m. the Ward’s Restaurant in Magee was robbed, which led to three arrests. An unnamed 17 year old and Tamara Middleton were both charged with armed robbery, and Leigha Lagwin McCallum was charged with accessory after the fact.
The week was capped with the armed robbery of of Dollar General located on Hwy. 28 on Jan. 6. According to the Simpson County Sheriff’s Office, two armed men entered the store and held the clerk at gunpoint. The gunmen escaped on foot before taking an undisclosed amount of money.
This is the second time that this Dollar General has been robbed within the last three months, the first being on Nov. 24 and the incident was carried out the same way except that was only one gunman was involved.
On Nov. 15, Magee Police were dispatched to several locations around Magee after reports of gunfire. The investigation ended with the arrest of an unnamed 17 year-old, and Lex McGee, who were charged with two counts of drive-by shooting.
The S&W Grocery store located in Pinola was robbed on Dec. 10 by four heavily armed males. The Simpson County Sheriff’s Office reported that the gunmen took approximately $12,000 and other items from the store owner. No arrests have been made thus far.
Violent crime has increased in Simpson County since November. Multiple law enforcement agencies have acknowledged the increase and explained that it was expected during the holiday season.
Simpson County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Greg Reynolds said, “It fluctuates. It kind of runs in cycles and we always see an increase in crime around Christmas.”
Reynolds explained that since the recent crime wave has begun deputies have increased their presence around businesses, especially during closing time. Deputies have served as a deterrent and bolstered a faster response time but have yet to produce many breaks in their established cases.
With the latest robbery of Dollar General on Highway 28, deputies were on scene within three minutes of receiving the call. Reynolds said, “We are hoping to get a needed break in the case, and if the public knows anything or sees anything suspicious please let us know.”
Reynolds explained many of the crimes have been done by masked and gloved subjects, which has made it difficult for witnesses to identify anyone. Reynolds was confident in the department’s ability to solve the pending cases and assured that the investigations are vigilantly ongoing.
He also urged citizens to be aware of anything suspicious. This included suspicious people walking into businesses, suspicious vehicles, and loitering.
Magee Police Department Assistant Chief Joey Womack said that most of Magee’s large scale crime has been solved. He said, “Most of our big and violent crime has been solved thanks to the help of the public.” He said a lot of the smaller crimes such as burglary of vehicles and homes still have ongoing investigations. The majority of it happens from travelers passing through, according to Womack.
Womack said that most of the armed robberies and shootings draw witnesses, and he credited the department’s open relationship with the public as a factor in their success. The armed robbery of the Eastside Store is currently unsolved. Womack said the department is looking for two males, but the subjects were covered from head to toe.
“It’s not only in Magee. Everywhere you look crime is increasing,” said Womack. He attributed much of the crime increase to the holidays, which also leads to an increase in the drug trade. He believes things will settle down as the city settles into the New Year. Womack recommended that business and home owners make sure the outside of their property is well lit, and that they install surveillance cameras.