DeSoto County cities are basking in the limelight of having not one but four of its cities among Mississippi's "Top 10 Safest Cities," according to the public safety database and web site SafeWise.
While the crime rate among Southern states is slightly higher than the national average, Mississippi bucks that trend according to the recently released report.
“Based on the most recent FBI crime report, Mississippi’s violent crime rate is nearly 15 percent lower than it is nationwide, and its violent and property crime rates are lower than every neighboring state,” the study found.
Surprisingly, the City of Horn Lake, a city which has made strides in recent years to improve safety, enforcement and bolster neighborhood watch groups, is ranked at No. 4 for the state of Mississippi in the analysis of crimes per capita and number of violent crimes reported.
"Of course, number one of the main reasons our city is safe is because the citizens want a safe community," Horn Lake Mayor Allen Latimer said. "They look out for each other. Our police department is vigilant as is our fire department. Everybody keeps their eyes and ears open and looks out for one another. We try to be proactive."
Southaven ranks as the state's fifth-safest city, followed by Hernando, which ranks No. 6 and Olive Branch, which came in at No. 9.
"This is our number one priority," Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite said Monday, upon learning of the honor. "We certainly are proud to receive this honor. It's phenomenal. Chief Pirtle is committed as am I to keeping our city safe. It didn't start with me. There have been others before me who committed the resources to making sure our police department had what it needs to keep this city safe."
Musselwhite said the city's effort to curb blight, along with its neighborhood watch programs, have contributed to the safe ranking.
"We have been committed to keeping our neighborhoods from deteriorating," said Musselwhite. "It's a deterrent to crime. When criminals see a neighborhood or a city which takes pride in itself, they see it's a city where they don't need to be."
Hernando Mayor Tom Ferguson said the honor is a testament to the people of his city and its police department.
"I am very happy to hear Hernando ranked in the top 10 safest cities," Ferguson said. "Our police department does an excellent job, we are very pleased with the police department. They are here to protect and serve our community to make it safe for everyone."
Olive Branch Mayor Scott Phillips said his city, too, has taken steps to keep its citizenry safe.
"It makes me feel wonderful, obviously," Phillips said. "One of the big factors is that over the past several years we have worked to make our police department more community-oriented. That is primarily being our Citizens Police Academy, which informs our citizens what our police officers do on a daily basis. We carry them to the firing range, through investigations where we do mock interrogation. They visit the jail. They learn about a lethal versus a non-lethal situation. It really is a great program."
The report states, “Even more impressive is the negligible crime reported by the state’s ten safest cities. With an average of 1.31 violent incidents per 1,000 people, the chance of being a crime victim in these cities is 72 percent lower than the national average."
The state's safest city is the Jackson suburb of Madison, a city that also features the state's lowest overall crime rate.
“We know safety is critical to Madison’s continued economic development and our citizens’ high quality of life—ensuring Police Chief Gene Waldrop has all the tools and financial resources he needs to do his job effectively is our top priority,” the SafeWise report stated.
In addition to being the safest city in the Magnolia State, Madison is also "the Most Successful City in Mississippi,” based on factors such as income, unemployment, and education rate,' stated career website Zippia.
No city is crime-free—in America, a violent crime occurs approximately every 25 seconds, and a property crime takes place every four seconds. But being proactive on crime can keep people and property safe.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.