Joyrides, theft, and destruction: Mississippi city facing battle against youth vandals

Published 7:45 am Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Two weekends in a row, the Lincoln County Civic Center suffered targeted attacks from allegedly juvenile suspects.

Wayne Kimble, Chairman of the Civic Center commission, said the suspects vandalized and stole side-by-sides at the civic center on two different occasions. Security footage documented the suspects during the first incident.

He appeared before the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors Monday morning in a board meeting. Brookhaven Police Department detective and assistant police chief Clint Earls is leading the investigation into the incidents.

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Kimble said the first incident occurred on Good Friday during the day while the facilities were closed. The suspects gained access to the civic center, stole two side-by-sides and proceeded to take out the fencing. One side-by-side was flipped while the other one was stolen. Kimble said the stolen one was recovered the next day. On the same weekend, they gained access to the restrooms in the stall barn and broke the mirrors inside.

“The building where the side-by-sides were stored is a standalone building secured on two sides. They were able to climb a fence and use equipment to push the fence down,” Kimble said. “We authorized management to put up more doors for security and are waiting on installation. We got a call this morning that one of the side-by-sides was stolen again.”

Kimble said he is not sure when the theft occurred this weekend, but it had to have happened sometime after the rain due to the tracks they were able to find. The camouflage Kubota side-by-side had yet to be recovered Monday morning.

“We have an issue and need to protect our equipment,” Kimble said.

He told the board their cameras are old, outdated and are hardwired into the building. One of these camera systems will run out of memory space and stop recording. Chastain Bullock said they have to manually go in and delete the recorder so cameras can continue surveillance.

Bullock recommended installing wireless cameras to help the security situation. His initial quote was $30,000 but he told supervisor Nolan Williamson he would find more quotes. Kimble asked the board for help with the funds and to consider it in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget.

“We don’t have that in our budget. It would take years to save for it, we would probably be robbed blind,” Kimble said. “We request y’all’s help in order to protect the county property. Commissioner Lee Morrison is a retired head of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. He gave us insight and said his concern would be with our large gathering of people out there. A child could be snatched up and taken in a vehicle and we would have no evidence. This is also about the security of people out there.”

While camera systems would aid the civic center in having records in the event of future thefts or vandalism, it would also reinforce security of people at ball games. Kimble had an additional request for the board to budget money in FY2024 to have a sheriff’s deputy present at the civic center during ball games for security purposes.

“We live in a culture where people don’t act in public the way they did 15 years ago. It has gone so far as the commission had to adopt a zero-tolerance policy,” Kimble said. “We live in a world where if a parent doesn’t like the umpire’s calls he threatens the umpire, then he gets thrown out and waits out in the parking lot to jump the umpire. We are concerned about the safety of the public when we have these gatherings.”

In April of 2022, Kiara Thomas from Laurel punched umpire Kristie Moore in the face after Thomas was ejected from a 12-year-olds’ softball game. Kimble said the presence of law enforcement might deter such behavior.

He urged the supervisors to be proactive instead of waiting for an incident to occur. Lincoln County Civic Center has staff who currently serve as adjudicators in the instances of rule disagreements and other issues but have limitations in power under guidelines.

“We live in a confrontational world now,” Kimble said. “There is a lot of time, effort and money that goes into the civic center. We want to protect the county’s property out there.”

Williamson asked Kimble to get numbers together on proposed security systems and to get together with County Administrator Daniel Calcote for the 2024 budget plans, which will start at the end of May.