JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson’s mayor believes the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a recent spike in killings, comparing the Capital City’s statistics to a national analysis of larger cities showing increases in killings and decreases in other types of violent crime.
“We’re concerned for those families that have had to face the unfortunate reality of losing loved ones. I want to continue to encourage our residents that we are being proactive and that we are working day and night on the issue,” Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said.
The New York Times analysis, published last month, showed more than twenty cities saw a 16 percent increase in homicides over last year.
The Capital City has had 67 homicides thus far in 2020, compared to 57 the year before.
Jackson’s surge of 17.5 percent over 2019 seems to match the Times’ analysis; however, Lumumba’s assertion that other crimes are decreasing cannot be confirmed because the city has not provided that information to 3 On Your Side or the public at large.
The most recent Uniform Crime Report posted on the city’s website, for example, is from April 2020.
These gaps in crime statistic reporting prevent Jacksonians from being able to look at a clear and concise picture of crime, and over the last year, our investigations found inaccurate crime information, delays and deletions that have continually raised transparency concerns.
In January 2019, 3 On Your Side uncovered that the department was using inaccurate statistics on dates the reports were released to the public, statistics that made the city appear safer than it actually was.
JPD Chief James Davis declared a month later that they would release the same UCR documents the department sends to the Federal Bureau of Investigation each month, effectively scrapping the previous COMSTAT reports because of our investigation, with the new statistics debuting in March 2019.
JPD then failed to post those monthly reports for eight months, only restoring the missing compilations after 3 On Your Side began questioning members of the JPD command staff about the inexcusable delay, including Davis and then-Assistant Chief Ricky Robinson.
Lumumba did not comment on JPD’s recent lapse in providing accurate statistics, instead telling 3 On Your Side that he believes the pandemic is a contributing factor to the city’s uptick in homicides.
“COVID isn’t creating the heated discussions, but COVID leaves you in the household a little longer with someone who has an abusive history or there may be an abusive relationship. And so, we have to deal with those things,” Lumumba said. “We have to deal with why people are having such frustration and fighting and disputes that are taking place. We have to be able to interrupt that cycle of violence before it turns deadly.”
3 On Your Side found some evidence to support the mayor’s conclusion, reporting in April 2020 that Jackson saw its deadliest month in the city’s history during Lumumba’s stay-at-home order.
Our analysis found roughly one in five shootings with injury this year took place during the order.
Data shows another uptick in homicides took place in early July, eventually tying with April for the city’s deadliest month with 14 killings; that analysis was based on historical FBI and WLBT data.
Lumumba said effectively reducing homicides in his city requires more than a “microwave” solution.
Community support and good relationships with law enforcement are key, he said.
“If I could figure out how to stop people from shooting people they’ve known for a long time, if I could find a way to quickly solve those interpersonal relationships, we would do so,” Lumumba said.
The mayor described recent killings in the city as all having interpersonal connections.
“We have the unfortunate double homicide that took place in a hotel, that all information has led to it being suggested that it was a domestic circumstance,” Lumumba said. “We have the situation where one friend picked up another friend, they got into an argument when they got into the car, one person decides to shoot the other person. And then more recently, we had a guy who decided to kill his mother and his sister.”
The nature of the majority of Jackson’s killings and added challenge of JPD’s manpower issues make it even more difficult to stop those crimes, he said.
Last year, a 3 On Your Side investigation revealed internal personnel documents that indicated not only that the police department had fewer active-duty officers than the city said publicly, but also it had less than it needs to effectively fill all of Jackson’s beats.
“You cannot out police something when people decide to take someone’s life in their house. Unless we choose to put an officer in every single house, that will not be a solution,” Lumumba said.
Jackson’s mayor said the city wants to explore efforts to provide mental health initiatives for residents, acknowledging that those are typically the state’s responsibility.
“We’re looking into our next budget to see how we can work with institutional partners and make those services available to various people,” he said.