A town hall meeting on April 22 drew three times the number of people Jackson city council member Ashby Foote expected.
“When we first started planning this, I expected 20 to 30 people to come,” Foote said, noting that an April 20 shooting on Ridgewood Road led more people to attend the meeting, which was billed as focusing on violence at the M Bar Sports Grill in Jackson.
The meeting, which attracted about 100 people, focused more on violence and crime in general.
Ken Wilson, president of the Ridgewood Neighborhood Association, said the meeting was meant to create a dialogue about crime in the city.
“I am highly concerned about violence,” he said. “Our concern is that crime is spiraling out of control. Apathy has settled in. Some people believe there’s nothing that can be done but I believe there’s a lot we can do. We need more law enforcement and more partnerships with the state and Hinds County.”
Police Chief James E. Davis told the audience that Jackson isn’t the only city seeing a spike in crime, but it is a national problem. He blamed the violence on individuals shooting individuals they know.
“It’s very difficult to police human behavior,” he said.
Hinds County Sheriff Robert Graham said additional law enforcement is needed. “What we have to have is more police visibility and deputies,” he said.
Hinds County deputies can’t just concentrate on the city of Jackson but also have to cover Edwards, Utica and Terry due to manpower shortages with those police departments, he said.
Hard core, violent offenders need to be removed from the streets, Graham said. “We have to go after those people,” he said.
Also needed are additional programs to address societal problems, Graham said.
Natashia Wade, who lives in Jackson near Boyd Elementary, called on citizens to stand up and reclaim the city.
“We’re woken all the time by loud mufflers and noise,” she said. “It’s scary. We are scared in our own homes. Something needs to be done. If you hear gunshots in your neighborhood, it’s not normal. We need to take our neighborhoods back.”
Jody Owens, Hinds County district attorney, called on citizens to serve on juries when called for jury duty. “We don’t have enough people to show up for jury duty,” he said.
Richard Bradley, owner of the M Bar Sports Grill, said he planned to add more law enforcement when the club is open and to raise the age limit for who is admitted some nights. He also plans to donate a surveillance camera that can be hooked up to JPD.
Bradley said he doesn’t plan to close the club. “We will not let crime run us from our community,” he said.
Bradley asked for help in getting nearby national retailers to leave their parking lot lights on all night.
Arthur Tarrance, who resides in Ridgewood Park, said the meeting tackled many issues facing the city. He’s hopeful there will be follow-up meetings.