Gov. Tate Reeves announced Wednesday that state troopers, the Capitol Police and the state Bureau of Narcotics will be stepping up their presence in Jackson in response to a wave of crime in the city.
The plan will involve state troopers conducting traffic enforcement on Jackson's state highways, Capitol Police stepping up patrols in the capitol district and Bureau of Narcotics agents providing more emphasis on stopping Jackson's drug trade.
“You know, at its core, the government's most basic responsibility is to protect its citizens and residents,” Reeves said. “My top priority has and always been to ensure the safety of all Mississippians. My administration will do whatever it takes to help keep downtown Jackson safe. The initiative is a good first step, but it will not solve all crime problems in the city of Jackson overnight.”
Reeves also said the increased state presence will allow the Jackson Police Department to redeploy scarce resources in other areas not patrolled by state officers.
In the past session, lawmakers shifted responsibility for the Capitol Police, a state law enforcement body that is charged with patrolling state property in the Capitol Complex Improvement District from the Department of Finance and Administration (which acts as the state's landlord) to the Department of Public Safety.
House Bill 974 was sponsored by state Rep. Nick Bain, R-Corinth and the change, like most new laws passed this session, went into effect July 1.
The Capitol Complex Improvement District extends from Interstate 55 to Jackson State University and contains the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the state museums and Fondren.
The Highway Safety Patrol is now allowed by a new law to conduct traffic enforcement on state highways running through cities with populations of more than 15,000. Reeves said state troopers would run patrols on Interstates 55, 20 and 220 in addition to the other state highways.
Senate Bill 2788 was sponsored by state Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson and also requires municipal law enforcement to inform the state Highway Safety Patrol of any road blockages or emergencies on interstates in city limits. This law came in response to a January incident when Interstate 55 near Woodrow Wilson Drive (right in front of DPS headquarters) was blocked by several cars drag racing and doing doughnuts.
Department of Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell, a former state senator and state appeals court judge, said that the trooper patrols in Jackson have already yielded 85 tickets for speeding and 14 tickets for driving under the influence.
“We're not going to go into details about the exact numbers, but I can tell you that you will see a significant increase in patrols on the interstates and within the city,” Tindell said.
Tindell also laid out his manpower goals for his department. He wants to have:
- A goal of 600 state troopers on duty, with 520 in the force at present after 45 graduated from the latest trooper class at the Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Academy.
- Increase the number of Narcotics Bureau agents from the 92 on staff to 172 as the department had in 2007.
- Add to the Capitol Police force, increasing its ranks from 81 uniformed officers to 114.
Reeves said there should be three priorities for $90 million in federal funds from the latest stimulus package given to the city of Jackson and Hinds County.
“Water, sewer, law enforcement,” Reeves said. “This money would go a long way toward helping significantly increase the numbers of the Jackson Police Department. It would also go towards telling state and federal leadership that they were serious about fixing the water and sewer system and other infrastructure challenges.”