Olive Branch patrol officers who live inside the city will soon be allowed to take their cars home to increase police presence and deter crime in neighborhoods.
Chief Don Gammage was granted approval for the policy change by the Board of Aldermen last week. He expects the officers to begin taking home cars Aug. 1.
"Statistics show the presence of police vehicles in neighborhoods decrease crime," Gammage said. "There's going to be a lot more visibility. It will actually decrease crime."
Olive Branch will join other police agencies in DeSoto County that allow officers to park their cars at their homes while they are off duty.
None of the law enforcement representatives questioned was able to cite statistical evidence but all reported residents and homeowner associations expressing approval of the practice.
"I love it," said Sheri Mitchell Summerford, who lives in the Braybourne subdivision where about four sheriff's deputies live and take home cars. "It does make me feel safer."
A take-home policy has been in place in Southaven for about 15 years.
Tom Long, chief in Southaven, said it's a natural instinct for law-abiding citizens to check their behavior when they notice a police officer or patrol car.
"You slow down. You drive a little better," Long said.
Criminal minds are even more cautious, he said, to keep from being caught.
"You see it, it's got to make an impact," said Hernando Chief Mike Riley.
Hernando has had a take-home policy in place five to six years.
Gammage said the cost to the city would be virtually nonexistent since police officers will essentially be patrolling all the way to their driveways.
"If they see a crime being committed, they will have to act," Gammage said. "If we can stop one crime . it's paid for itself . it's justified."
Olive Branch police already allowed detectives on call to drive their unmarked vehicles home. The expanded policy allows all detectives to take home their cars now, in addition to patrol officers taking marked vehicles home.
Of the department's 73 officers, about 45 people will be taking cars home, Gammage said. Thirty-six of those will be in marked patrol vehicles.