Homeowners cannot legally shoot someone who is trespassing on their property or breaking into a vehicle.
Brookhaven Police Chief Kenneth Collins made the statement during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the City’s Board of Aldermen.
“Don’t hurt anybody inside your car or on your property,” Collins said. “Call the police. Let us handle it.”
The question has come up multiple times in recent weeks as property owners are frustrated over burglary and attempted burglaries.
In addition to reporting to law enforcement, several Brookhaven residents have taken to social media to warn their neighbors and air their frustrations over the issue.
“My car was broken into last night,” one person wrote. “Always lock my doors so not sure what happened.”
“They got into my dad’s truck.”
“Pretty sure somebody went through my car last night.”
Some residents say they’ve captured suspects on video and have submitted footage to police, as well.
According to City-Data.com’s crime index, in 2018 and 2019 (the most recent data), 195 and 198 burglaries were committed in Brookhaven, and 128 and 166 thefts, respectively. There were 23 auto thefts in each of those years, also.
Much of the recent criminal activity in the city has come as a result of gang activity, according to the police chief — both from local residents and people coming into the area from larger areas, such as Jackson.
“My officers are doing the best they can,” the police chief told aldermen. “Don’t leave valuables in your cars, lock your doors and — if they can afford it — people need to put up cameras.”
“You cannot shoot a person for being inside your car or on your property — only if your life is in immediate danger,” Collins said. “It’s a serious thing to take someone’s life. If you do that, you’re going to jail.”
“What if I am in my home when a person breaks in?” asked insurance agent Sylvia King.
“Only if you believe your life is in immediate danger,” Collins said.
“What about if I am in my car when they’re trying to get in?” Ward 6 Alderman Andre’ Spiller asked the chief.
“If you are in the car when they’re trying to break in, and you believe your life is in immediate danger,” Collins said.
“You cannot shoot someone and take their life just because they’re stealing from you or on your property,” the chief said.