SERGEANT ALDON HELMERT OF THE BILOXI POLICE DEPARTMENT

INV Helmert A_6400Next year, Sgt. Helmert will celebrate twenty years in law enforcement. It is a job he loves but it is fraught with constant challenges and heartache. He routinely sees the horrors of criminal behavior and bears witness to the kind of deviant activities that we thankfully only see glimpses of on television dramas and at the movie theater. This, however is real life. Day after day, Sgt. Helmert maintains a cool head and calm demeanor as he encounters the unimaginable. He and his fellow officers do their utmost to keep the good citizens of Biloxi safe.
Aldon Helmert did not set out to be in law enforcement. He intended to be an electrical engineer. As he proceed with his education, he was saddened to see that many of the guys he had gone to school with and grown up with were taking a much different road. They were using drugs and were gravitating toward the gang lifestyle. Helmert decided he had another calling and changed his major to Criminal Justice. He attained his degree at Jefferson Davis Community College on the Coast.
He began his career with the Gulfport Police Department and after attending the Reserve Academy in 1993, he served as a reserve police officer for a year or so. An opportunity arose for a spot with Special Operations, which lead to working in the Narcotics Division. In 1996, Helmert was hired by the Biloxi Police Department as a full time patrol duty cop at a housing unit. Eventually all the housing projects in the city were assigned a two man detail. He and his partner worked together for six years. Next came a move to the Special Crimes Unit which handles all narcotics and vice.
Today, Helmert serves as the sergeant of the Narcotics and Vice Division of the Biloxi PD. “We wear many hats. We deal with street level narcotic violators, which are the guys that stand on the street corner in open air, and we have undercover operations and deal with informants for the much bigger scale of sale level. There are a multitude of things that we have to deal with pertaining to drugs, and often the drugs are associated with other crimes which frequently include homicides,” Helmert said. The domino effect occurs more often than not where one ugly situation leads to another. Homicides occur in cycles. “Some months are good with no murders or slayings then in the space of a month or two, every time you turn around there is a homicide. We certainly don’t have the high numbers that other jurisdictions suffer with, but in my opinion any death that is attributed to the drug trade is one too many,” he added.
The Biloxi PD Narcotics and Vice Division also deals with the issue of human trafficking, more specifically, the sex trade with anyone under the age of 18. The department would be advised of these practices taking place with under age participants, but it was almost impossible to find anyone who fit the description of a juvenile involved in prostitution up until about 2010. The legislature had passed a state law against human trafficking that definitively encompassed child prostitution. Today it is discovered more often, when it used to be in the shadows and was harder to prove. People who are involved in the drug trade are now switching to the prostitution trade and trafficking young girls. Even if they are caught, they are making a great deal of money with a lesser punishment than dealing in drugs. “The state of Mississippi has done a very good job with the human trafficking laws. Both the State Attorney General’s office and the legislative body are listening to our suggestions. We are working together to make it even harder for these criminals to thrive but more has to be done,” Sgt. Helmert said.
In the fight against human trafficking, the Attorney General’s office is presenting materials to hotels, motels and casinos in order to help them identify this crime when it is happening within their properties. Currently, there are two people accused of human trafficking in Gulfport/Biloxi who have gone through the judicial system and taken pleas rather than going to trial. Biloxi police arrested Derick Howard Duke, 47, and Amanda Lynn Duke, 24, on a charge of procuring sexual servitude of a minor (age 16) under the Anti-Human Trafficking Act. Amanda Duke is serving her sentence at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility with a release date of July, 2017. Derick Duke was sentenced to 25 years at the state penitentiary at Parchman. In October, Cindy Lee Hazlett, 31, and Christopher Robert Pendowski, 38, were also arrested for human trafficking, involving a 13 year old girl for sex. Their cases are pending grand jury review. Sgt. Helmert said that at this time, one other case has been identified which has been passed on to the U. S. Department of Homeland Security.
There is no such thing as an ordinary day in law enforcement. An officer must be ready to switch gears at a moments notice and be prepared for anything. There is never a regular or routine day, and from the time they walk through the door, a life or death call could come in which necessitates an immediate and very serious response. Police officers never know from one minute to the next what they will encounter but they face the task at hand with unyielding dedication and a brotherhood that is second to none. “When there is a situation of extreme danger, such as a report from a citizen that a meth lab has been discovered, we stop whatever we are doing at that moment and put every single resource we have into immediate action. The things that we have to deal with are not normal and will certainly take a toll, so we like to laugh and joke around with each other whenever possible. We try to keep things light as a coping mechanism,” Helmert said. The atmosphere among fellow officers at the station is easy and fun but when they are called to spring into action…it’s all business. They selflessly lay their lives on the line to protect and serve.
There are less meth labs in Mississippi today thanks to legislation that banned the sale of Sudafedrin (pseudoephedrine) without a prescription.. It is the one ingredient that cannot be eliminated in the manufacturing of meth. There was an influx of people going to Louisiana from Mississippi in an effort to acquire the drug so another step was taken to address the problem. Pharmacies and big chain stores throughout Louisiana refuse to sell Sudafed to those who can only produce a Mississippi ID. Alabama then offered further assistance to squelch this drug trade by passing additional legislation. Any Mississippi resident who travel to Alabama in order to fill a script for the drug, must produce a written prescription from a physician in order for it to be filled. The more red tape and road blocks encountered, the less profitable making meth becomes. This is working very well to curtail the crime.
Citizens can be of assistance to the police department by calling immediately when either witnessing criminal behavior or just having “that feeling” that something is not right. It is very important to make note as to the description of the person or persons involved, the color, make, model of the vehicle as well as tag number if possible, and the location. We live in a very mobile society and it is very easy to change locations in a matter of minutes so all this information is crucial. That strange, unfamiliar car creeping through your neighborhood may have just been involved in a burglary or worse…trust your instincts! Better to be safe than sorry. You never know how valuable your observations could prove to be. “We would much rather you call us, even if it turns out to be nothing than ignore something that turns out to be really serious and possibly dangerous,” Helmert said. “Crime Stoppers” is also a tremendous help to the police department and does a great job of collecting information and getting it to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
Human trafficking thrives because of supply and demand. Our beautiful Gulf Coast is a magnet for tourists, with so many wonderful things to see and do. Unfortunately, it makes this area a breeding ground for human trafficking and creates a high demand for the sex trade. “If there are people who demand sex for money, there will be people who will supply it. We are dealing with a world that is changing and the criminal element will always find ways to have an income. We need laws that will will stop them from doing so,” Helmert said. In the battle against human trafficking, great strides have been made but more laws are necessary to hopefully one day eradicate this evil from the Coast. In the meantime, with New Orleans hosting the Super Bowl, we are presented with a host of new challenges and problems. As a result, the Biloxi PD is working with the Gulfport PD, the Harrison County Sheriff’s office, and every law enforcement agency on the Coast as well as the FBI, Homeland Security Investigation, Pearl River County, ATF, the State Bureau of Narcotics, and ICAC which is the Attorney General’s task force for Internet Crimes Against Children. “We also rely on citizens to keep a watchful eye and report anything out of the norm, and Non Government Organizations (NGO’s) that offer additional assistance such as Advocates For Freedom. We don’t have it as bad as other cities and we certainly want to keep it that way. It requires constant vigilance and awareness of all Gulf Coast citizens. Everyone can help,” Helmert said.
Human traffickers who prey on juveniles (girls under the age of 18) are looking for young ladies who give off a certain vibe. They frequent bus stations looking for the weary traveler and run aways. They hang out in malls, watching for girls shopping alone who are socially awkward or appear to be uncomfortable when engaging other people. These predators even approach girls outside of their schools. It is important to note that human traffickers are both men and women who are capable of dreadful and horrific practices in order to get what they want. They are masters of manipulation, knowing exactly what to say and how to say it to terrorize their captives. Once a young girl is caught in the web of deception and depravity, it is almost impossible to break free.”This is known as the game in the world of prostitution and human trafficking, and pimps learn very quickly how to master it,” Helmert said.
The young girls who become victims of this heinous crime are someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, niece, or grand daughter. They are loved and treasured by family members or friends. It is imperative that resources continue to be utilized and steps are taken to foil the actions of human traffickers in order to protect these very impressionable and trusting children. Sgt. Aldon Helmert and his fellow police officers are doing everything they can to put these criminals behind bars. Go To Places Monthly is honored to name Sgt. Helmert of the Biloxi Police Department as our first Mover and Shaker for the new year and we thank him for his dedication and service in the ongoing fight against human trafficking.

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