JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Lawmakers hope to introduce a bill by Monday that could help short-staffed cities quell street racing and other dangerous activities along the interstate.
District 25 Sen. Walter Michel and District 29 Sen. David Blount are working on a measure that would give the Mississippi Highway Patrol the authority to patrol interstate corridors in Jackson, Biloxi and other larger municipalities.
Currently, state law prohibits the agency from working in cities with 15,000 or more people.
The bill is being drawn up in response to recent street racing that has occurred along I-55 and I-10.
On New Year’s night, a group of teens and young adults blocked traffic along I-55 in North Jackson and Fondren for about an hour, while they did donuts in the middle of the roadway.
It took Jackson Police an hour to respond to the scene, and when they did, the drivers fled.
“It is beyond my comprehension that it took an hour for police to respond to that,” Michel said.
Meanwhile, Mississippi Highway Patrol (MHP) is headquartered on Woodrow Wilson Avenue, a short distance from where the incident occurred.
However, troopers couldn’t respond to the scene and didn’t even know it was happening, Michel said.
He said had MHP been able to, the problem could have been addressed much quicker.
While details of the bill are still being hammered out, Michel said the measure would amend state law to give troopers the authority to respond to incidents on the interstate in Jackson and other larger cities.
It would also allow calls from Jackson and those municipalities to also go to MHP if they’re related to incidents that occur on the interstate.
Right now, those calls only go to their respective city’s dispatch center.
“If it happens in Jackson, the call only goes to Jackson, he said. “We want the calls to go to the highway patrol, so if needed, they can get there quicker than that.
“This would allow MHP to participate in the calls and allow them to be in the know.”
If passed, the bill would not only help Jackson and Biloxi but cities like Madison and Ridgeland, which also have a portion of the interstate running through their towns.
Michel and Blount met with Sean Tindell, commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, to discuss what was needed to make the bill a success.
The measure would not mandate troopers to patrol interstates in cities but would allow them to. It would also not prohibit municipalities from patrolling those corridors, Michel said.
Either way, he said the legislation is needed to help make events like the one that happened on New Year’s Night a thing of the past.
Said Michel, “The last thing we want is for someone who is going home or is traveling to be in traffic for an hour because some idiot is doing donuts on the interstate.”