Nonprofits ask council for help stopping Meridian break-ins

May 13—Two nonprofit organizations along Highway 39 are asking the Meridian City Council for help after repeated break-ins have resulted in stolen technology and concerns about safety.

In a work session Tuesday, Gale Walker with the Mississippi Center for Legal Services said video of a recent break-in at her nonprofit shows the burglar using a wagon to haul away laptops, giveaways for clients and even coffee creamer from the employee refrigerator.

"The wagon was loaded so high it looked like the car in the 'Beverly Hillbillies,'" she said.

Leta Palmiter, at the nearby Illuminations Center for Dyslexia, said her business had been broken into twice. Among the items stolen were laptops and technology used to help those with dyslexia read.

The problem, Walker said, seems to be increasing along with the population of homeless living in the wooded area between Highway 39 and Russell Drive, which backs up to both businesses. This is not the first time the area has had problems, she said.

Previously, the issue was solved after the area was clear cut, but it has since been allowed to grow back up, she said.

"We need your help," she said.

A nearby vacant storefront also seems to attract attention from the homeless population, Walker said, with odds and ends appearing to be stored in and around the empty building.

Both Walker and Palmiter said they have reported the break-ins to Meridian Police Department but have not seen the situation improve. The situation is, in fact, getting worse, Walker said, with vagrants attempting to get in the building during the day.

Walker said she is concerned about the safety of her staff if the situation was allowed to continue unchecked.

While Walker has already installed cameras, Mayor Jimmie Smith said he recommends businesses and nonprofits invest in audible alarms. A silent alarm and cameras may capture a burglar's face, he said, but an audible alarm will often deter would be burglars from entering a business in the first place.

"I encourage people to use audible alarms as opposed to silent alarms," he said.

Councilman Dwayne Davis, who represents both businesses in Ward 2, said he agreed with the mayor that an audible alarm might be a good investment. In the meantime, he said he will visit the two locations and try to get a better understanding of the problem.

Contact Thomas Howard on Twitter @tmhoward