Gov. Tate Reeves is increasing the presence of state police in Jackson to help address rocketing crime in the capital city, including adding narcotics agents, saying government’s most basic responsibility is to protect its citizens.
“We are seeing it every night on Jackson’s local news…a never ending cycle of violent crime,” Reeves said at a Wednesday press conference. “They (Jackson residents) aren’t asking for much. They are just asking for the ability to walk down the street.”
The homicide rate in Jackson is on a record pace this year, set to pass 2020’s all-time high of 130. To date, there have been 79 murders in the city in 2021.
The governor’s announcement comes on the heels of Jackson City Councilman Kenneth Stokes last week asking the council to approve a resolution asking that Reeves activate the Mississippi National Guard to help quell the crime. Stokes said Jackson could use all the help it could get from state or federal authorities. The council sent his request to committee.
Reeves said Wednesday there are no plans to call in the National Guard.
“It’s not a police force,” Reeves said. “They’re there to assist. I don’t want to have a capital city with militarized officers.”
But, Reeves said he identified with Stokes’ concerns.
“I think the mere fact that Stokes is begging for help speaks to the significant problems of crime in Jackson, and I agree with him we need to get crime under control.”
More state officers in Jackson
Reeves and state Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell said they will increase police visibility by bringing in a “significant” number of law enforcement officers, including Mississippi state troopers to patrol state and federal highways in the city. Additional Capitol Police will patrol the Capitol Complex District, which covers a swath of Jackson near the state Capitol, from Jackson State University to downtown Jackson and into the Fondren neighborhood.
Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics will increase the number of agents in the city to crackdown on drug offenses, Reeves said.
The areas noted have a lower overall crime rate compared to other areas of the city, but Reeves said the increased visibility will allow the Jackson Police Department to concentrate on other crime hotspots.
In order for Jackson to reach its full potential, the most fundamental needs of residents must be met: safety and security, the governor said.
“I stand with the citizens of Jackson and that’s why I’m announcing a new initiative to uphold public safety in the capital city,” Reeves said.
Reeves, flanked by state troopers and Capitol Police, said the city should spend federal funds on bolstering its police force. He called the rise in violent crime in Jackson — while in line with similarly-sized cities — unacceptable, noting the city is on pace to nearly double the total number of homicides it recorded two years ago.
Absent from the press conference were Jackson Police Department brass and other Jackson city officials. When asked, the governor said they weren’t present because they weren’t invited.
Cracking down on street racing
Reeves also mentioned recent changes to state law that removes a prohibition on the use of radar technology by the Highway Patrol, which he said will help troopers catch speeders on state roadways.
Drag racing across the city has become a recent concern of residents after dozens of motorists blocked off traffic on Interstate 55 for about an hour and performed stunts in the middle of the roadway.
Since then, the Jackson Police Department says it has increased patrols in areas where the racing typically occurs, but residents have complained it continues to be an issue.