Joseph R. White of Norfolk, being held on a murder charge in the shooting death of a 15-year-old who allegedly snatched his mother's purse, says he went looking for the teen-ager because he was angry and was fed up with area crime.

White, 24, said in a jailhouse interview published yesterday in a Norfolk newspaper that he regretted what he had done but felt compelled to take drastic action.

"The way the crime rate is . . . I felt like I had to do something," he told the Virginian-Pilot and the Ledger-Star. "I felt like if I didn't catch them, the police probably wouldn't have . . . . "

White, an unemployed construction worker, said he was at home Thursday when his mother, Sadie L. White, came into the house crying and told him of the attack. He said she had been harassed before. White said he got his .32-caliber handgun, and, accompanied by his mother, drove around the neighborhood looking for the thief.

He said he drove until he came to a crowd of people in Roberts Park, a housing project near the family's home.

"I jumped out of the car and there he was. When I went up to him, I could see one of his hands but not the other," White said. "My reflexes told me to shoot him because I thought he had a weapon . . . ."

Police said Billy Perry, 15, was struck by one shot when he was on the ground and a second after he stood up. He died of the gunshot wounds, one in the back and the other in the side. Police said the purse was recovered by bystanders.

White was being held in lieu of $25,000 bond.