Monday, February 19, 2018

Other Voices: A grim new year in Harrison County, but more than violence defines us

By Marshall News Messenger
Jan. 16, 2018 at 4 a.m.

Just seven days into 2018, Harrison County had its first murder of the year — a dark milestone we annually hope never comes — when the body of 30-year-old Joshua Ray Tillery of Marshall was found in a rural abandoned home.

It is disturbing to have a murder occur so early into the new year, stoking fears that it provides an unwelcome preview of things to come. But recent years' data have shown area crime is beginning to dwindle. Though the Marshall Police Department has yet to release the crime data for 2017, previous years have shown a decline in crime: In 2014, crime was down 20 percent from 2013, in 2015 it went down 3 percent and in 2016 it went down another 5 percent.

The Marshall area had only one homicide in 2017, back in March. That was a dramatic reduction from the three murders reported both in 2015 and 2016.

Despite those more comforting statistics, less than 24 hours after Tillery's body was found last week, Sheriff Tom McCool told the Harrison County Commissioners Court that in his eyes crime was on the rise. He stated that during his tenure as sheriff, from 2001 to 2017, he has witnessed assault, burglary and intoxicated offense rise 100 percent, weapons-related offenses rise 200 percent and perhaps most disturbingly, homicides rise 300 percent.

McCool then pointed the finger of blame of a 17-year crime wave squarely at narcotics, dubbing it the "leading factor" of crime in Harrison County, as well as across the state and nationally.

As an exclamation point to McCool's statement, it was revealed Tillery was arrested Oct. 30 in Panola County with 1,614 ecstasy pills, 1.12 pounds of cocaine and 24 bottles of prescription strength cough syrup containing codeine.

The picture painted by such numbers is a grim one. But here are a few more statistics: Harrison County boasts a population of 65,000 and Marshall, its county seat, has 23,000 residents. Both numbers dwarf those of violent crimes and miscellaneous crimes reported in the past several years. Marshall and Harrison County have proved over the years they are both more than crime, and more than statistics, by those who volunteer in our community and report suspicious activity as it arises.

It is our hope that in 2018 we prove it again.



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