McComb funeral home and business owners said they were surprised to learn that the city police department is no longer offering business and funeral escorts.

Hartman-Jones Funeral Home owner Jason Jones said Thursday that he learned of the new policy after he called to request a police escort.  

“We called for an escort yesterday and they called back 10 minutes later and said they were no longer offering escorts for funerals, for bank deposits and the such,” Jones said.

Jones said he worries about the public safety implications of the new policy, not only with long funeral processions, but the safety of employees of businesses who will drive unprotected with bank deposits, sometimes at night.

“We’re going to Pike Memorial (Gardens) for a funeral tomorrow. You ought to try getting through that five-point intersection on Presley (Boulevard) without an escort,” Jones said.

Greg Ballew, who owns the Circle B convenience store on Presley Boulevard, said he learned of the new policy after one of his employees called for a bank escort.

Ballew said he worries about his employees’ safety when they’re leaving with a deposit.  

“To me it increases the risk of something bad happening because of protection and stuff so we have to change our format for how we do our jobs,” he said.

Ballew said a police officer told him the change was due to a lack of manpower.

“One of the officers told me it was because they were down three people per shift, which is normally six people per shift,” Ballew said.

The police department has had an officer shortage over the past year or so, but Police Chief Garland Ward said recently that he’s making hires in patrol and investigations.

Ballew said the move makes for an unfriendly business climate.

Craft Funeral home owner Sonny Dillon said he learned of the policy change from a relative who works with the department, but hasn’t received an official word from police.

“I have not gotten a letter, but to my understanding they said they were going to get a letter out to everybody,” he said.

Dillon said he had two services on Saturday, neither of which required a police escort.

And in other cities, including Jackson and New Orleans, on-duty police don’t offer escorts. Funeral directors usually hire off-duty officers for the service.

“In New Orleans, you’ve got to hire the off-duty police department,” he said.

In that regard, the policy change “wouldn’t be anyhing new” for the industry, just new for McComb, he said.

Neither Ward nor Mayor Quordiniah Lockley returned messages seeking comment on Monday afternoon.

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