Starkville Police Department officials are urging local residents to be prepared for the already heavier traffic on local streets and take necessary safety precautions now that local public and private schools have started classes and Mississippi State University students return to begin a new academic year.
“Each year at this time, the community sees an increase in population as our university students return for a new year, and there is an accompanying increase in activity,” said Police Chief David Lindley.
“The return of our students has an effect on traffic movement, parking, the number of traffic violations and property crimes, and it presents a challenge to us to be able to provide public safety.”
With that in mind, police officials are asking students and full-time city residents to exercise caution to help keep significant traffic-related problems from developing and minimize crime, Lindley said.
“This time of year, we see an increase in speeding on our streets, an increase in alcohol-related violations and an increase in petty thefts and burglaries, particularly in more student-populated areas such as apartment complexes,” Lindley said.
Traffic flow heavy
With the influx of more than 18,000 university students over the next several days — coupled with classes beginning for local schools — traffic has already much more congested on major city streets, particularly U.S. 82, Highway 12, Louisville Street, South Montgomery Street and Jackson Street, Lindley said.
Since many students walk to school, motorists must take extra care to watch for pedestrians, he said.
With the increased traffic, Lindley said he is encouraging residents and students to plan ahead when driving to help prevent accidents and unnecessary traffic jams, as well as personal frustration, Lindley said.
Highway 12, in particular, sees significant traffic congestion between 7 and 9 a.m., during the lunchtime hours and from 3:30 to 6 p.m., Lindley said.
“Traffic is only going to increase as our MSU students return and the university goes into session for the fall semester. With our students especially, it helps to leave earlier if they are unfamiliar with routes of travel or parking availability. With our residents, leaving earlier can help them arrive on time at their destination if the traffic is heavy,” Lindley said. “Prior planning makes things run a lot smoother and helps us avoid having to work traffic accidents or give speeding tickets.”
Both residents and MSU students are encouraged to avoid areas where street construction is occurring during peak traffic hours in the morning and evening, he said. Certain streets around the city’s public and non-public schools will also see increased traffic as classes begin later this week, so congestion is highly likely in many areas, Lindley said.
“Both Highway 12 and Highway 182, in particular, are proving to be a real challenge to people who are trying to arrive some place on time,” Lindley said.
With a heavy number of students and others moving into area apartment complexes and other rental properties, thefts and burglaries often spike this time of year, Lindley said.
“Unfortunately, there are people in our community who are more predatory on others this time of year, and they take advantage of those people who don’t use proper precautions,” Lindley said.
“Luckily, there is only a small percentage of the community who will take advantage of this situation by committing crimes, but they are inclined to do so in a target-rich environment.”
A common problem involves students leaving personal property unattended while moving into a new apartment or home or while leaving for a meal or to grocery shop, Lindley said.
With local retailers seeing a boost in business from the returning students, residents are also at risk to become crime victims, particularly with auto burglaries, Lindley added.
“All items, whether being left in the car or a moving truck, need to be locked up safely if no one is to be around,” Lindley said. “Keeping them out of plain view will also help.”
Police officers are more than willing to assist students in times of need, particularly freshmen or transfer students who are new to Starkville, Lindley said.
“Many students are in a new environment for the first time without parental control. We try to be understanding of that, assist where we can and encourage them to use caution and common sense to adjust to their new situation,” Lindley said.
“It’s not uncommon for something tragic to happen this time of year — an alcohol-related crash, injuries, alcohol poisoning form over-consumption. We don’t want that to happen. Using common sense will help.”