JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Two former Jackson Police Department officers say the area where two children were shot on Tuesday has been known as recent years for being a hotbed of drugs, gangs, and crime.
A one year old boy was shot in the head and a 13-year old girl was shot in the arm in what police described as a targeted attack. The vehicle they were riding in had a tight grouping of bullet holes in the windshield, and none of the adults in the car were injured.
“It was a high crime area, high drug area, there was a lot of gang activity going on at the time, but mainly drugs. Drugs were a big deal in that area. But now as years have passed, it has gotten way out of control,” said an officer we’ll call “Larry,” as his employer has allowed him to talk to us only if we withhold his identity.
“Jim” is another former JPD officer. His employer has also asked that we not identify him. Jim says the drastic drop in police visibility over the last few years has made a huge difference in people’s willingness to commit crimes in broad daylight.
“You can’t have five or six officers saturating an area when you don’t have but eight or nine officers in a precinct and the call volume is overwhelming,” Jim said.
Both Jim and Larry still have CIs in Jackson and friends at JPD. They also both still have family in Jackson. They say in their days not that long ago, they knew the streets like the back of their hands.
The drug trade in certain areas of the city is flourishing like it the glory days, Larry said.
“This city has become more violent, there’s been a spike in violent crimes against persons, and to be honest, there’s open-air drug dealing going on like back in the 90s,” he said. “I believe the reason for that is the lack of numbers that JPD is looking at right now, it’s dangerously low.”
That’s because, he said, the low pay, the increasingly hard work, and a feeling of lack of support from the command staff and the city is driving veteran officers away and keeping others from applying. As the new officers come in, there are fewer police on the streets with long-time knowledge of the lay of the land and the major players in the areas they patrol.
And as the crime goes up on the streets, the collateral damage is more evident. On Tuesday, three children were shot -- the two on Medgar Evers and one on Maple Street later on that evening. Jim said the outrage in past years would have been a driving force.
“If there was something involving a child or something, it wouldn’t take knowing there’s been more than 80 murders this year for people to make a big deal out of it,” he said. “It wouldn’t be the end of the year when people start asking about numbers that it started to matter, it would be at the beginning of the year before we got to that point.”