Crime concerns evident in Ward 2

n Four people are running to represent Tupelo’s second-most populated district.
By Emily Le Coz
Daily Journal
TUPELO – Smack dab in the center of the city, Ward 2 represents the best and the worst of Tupelo.
The district is one of the city’s smallest in terms of land but the second-most populated, after Ward 1.
It’s home to several lovely but aging neighborhoods and borders a host of densely packed apartment complexes located in nearby wards.
Residents in Ward 2 hail from Willis Heights, Wilemon Acres, Joyner and the South Thomas Street areas. Landmarks include the Civil War Monument, City Park, the Link Centre and the Wal-Mart shopping district on West Main Street.
Some 4,900 people live in the district – four out of five are white.
While people in Ward 2 boast about neat lawns and friendly neighbors, they shake their fists against lackluster code enforcement and a rising crime rate.
“My front door was kicked in in broad daylight,” said Ellen Avant, president of the Wilemon Acres Neighborhood Association. “They took four guns and a camera.”
Wilemon Acres sits in a near-perfect square bordered on the south by Main Street, on the west by Thomas Street, on the east by Lumpkin Street and on the north by Jackson Street.
Avant and her neighbor, Debbie Sudduth, said crime seems rampant. They blame juveniles and a lack of police and parental supervision. Both women said they want their City Council representative to crack down on the problem in the upcoming term.
So does Willis Heights Neighborhood Association President Bill Collins. His area lies just south of Main Street and is home to a large transient population occupying an array of rental homes.
“Our biggest concern is crime prevention,” Collins said. “I think we need a little more police presence.”
Collins said he and his wife moved to Ward 2 more than four decades ago to raise their family. The area remains an ideal place, but Collins said it needs some care and attention. He said he hopes the council will help provide it.
First-time Councilman Thomas Bonds currently represents Ward 2 and is seeking re-election. The Republican faces newcomer Fred Pitts in the May 5 primary election. The winner will meet Democrat Sheila Nabors in the June 2 general election.
Whoever gets elected must crack down on crime, but also must beef up code enforcement, residents say.
Spokespeople from most homeowners associations said they’d like to see the city hire more code-enforcement officers.
The city has only three on the job right now, and all are busy with housing inspections in addition to enforcing codes. BJ Teal, who heads the Development Services Department that oversees both functions, said she’d eventually like to hire more people to do the job.
In the meantime, the next council person can start thinking about how to revitalize some of the ward’s aging neighborhoods, said Leslie Mart, president of the Joyner Neighborhood Association.
“We need city leadership who are forward thinking,” Mart said, “and innovative in coming up with solutions for encouraging homeowners to invest in our older neighborhoods by providing programs or incentives that would entice long-term ownership.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily LeCoz