It’s been almost six months since a town hall meeting focused on violence and crime in Jackson drew a crowd three times larger than expected.
What’s happened since then in terms of combatting crime?
“There’s not been much progress,” said Ashby Foote of Ward 1, who organized the meeting that was held at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum and drew about 100 people.
“There’s too much crime. Too much violence. There are way too many shootings. There’s a lot of work to do.”
Since that April 22 meeting, the Jackson city council voted 4-3 to confirm Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba’s choice of James Davis as chief of police. He will serve a second term of four years.
Council members Foote, Angelique Lee of Ward 2, Kenneth Stokes of Ward 3 and Brian Grizzell of Ward 4 voted in favor of the chief. Council President Virgi Lindsay of Ward 7 and council members Vernon Hartley of Ward 5 and Aaron Banks of Ward 6 voted against the confirmation.
Lindsay voted against Davis because she favors a change of leadership.
Since that meeting, Marshand Crisler has taken over as interim sheriff of Hinds County. The Hinds County Board of Supervisors appointed him after the death of Hinds County Sheriff Lee Vance on Aug. 4.
Vance died from cardiorespiratory failure because of COVID-19. He announced on July 23 he had tested positive for the virus; officials said he was vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Crisler will serve until a special election is held on Nov. 2 to select a new sheriff. The winner of that election will fill the two and half years left on Vance’s term.
Additional law enforcement officers are still needed, Foote said, but a pay raise announced last month should help retain officers.
“It doesn’t help immediately but will take a while,” Foote said of the pay raise.
The Jackson city council voted in September to use more than $5.7 million from the $21 million the city has in hand from the American Rescue Plan Act for premium pay for veteran police officers, firefighters and dispatchers.
That will increase pay for to $45,000 for police corporals and Jackson Fire Department lieutenants and to $48,000 for police sergeants and fire department captains. The funds will raise pay for a dispatcher to $15 an hour.
Also needed to fight crime, Foote said, is JPD joining forces with other law enforcement agencies.
“I got a commitment from the chief of police that he would reach out to Hinds Count and the state and the federal government to assist in combatting crime in Jackson,” he said. “The city hasn’t done an effective job in reaching out. The mayor has been very hard-headed in not taking advantage of other law enforcement agencies.”
The town hall meeting was called in response to a March shooting outside the M Bar Sports Grill that left a bystander dead.
In September, Richard Bradley, owner of the M Bar, announced the donation of numerous high-definition security cameras to the city of Jackson. The cameras tie into Jackson’s real time command center on Riverside Drive.
In addition, Bradley announced he has tripled the number of security guards, increased the number of Hinds County sheriff deputies patrolling the area and shortened the hours of operation during the week.
Since the town hall meeting, Ken Wilson, president of the Ridgewood Neighborhood Association and an attendee at the meeting, has experienced the terror of gunshots.
On Sept. 15, gunshots were fired around 8 p.m. outside a home on Medallion Drive that sits directly behind Wilson’s house. “I got on the floor with my wife and children,” he said.
According to information gathered from the residents of nearby homes, a Medallion Drive homeowner’s wife and daughter were followed home by two vehicles after they had dinner at the nearby Cracker Barrel, Wilson said.
An individual, a young black male, displayed a firearm to rob the driver, the wife,” he said. “I was told she screamed and made a loud noise. The husband was inside and exited the home. There was a gunfire exchange with the homeowner.”
Wilson believes a multi-faceted approach to fight crime is needed that would involve JPD, Jackson public schools, youth and teen programs, faith-based programs and more opportunities for work.