JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Killings in the Capital City have surged in the first two weeks of the new year with investigators hunting down leads on six cases, compared to a single homicide this time last year.
At the same time, shootings resulting in injury or death have dropped significantly, suggesting a decrease in gun violence thus far.
Half of 2021′s homicide victims died from shootings, according to information released by the Jackson Police Department. A 3 On Your Side anaylsis of the last five years’ worth of homicide cases shows only 2019 had a more deadly start to the year, with seven homicides by January 14.
“It’s a sad state of affairs, people seeking permanent solutions to temporary problems,” said Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba. “Out of the the homicides that we have seen, they have been a disproportionate number of domestic circumstances that have taken place, or murders that have taken place inside the home.”
That last part remains significant, Lumumba said, because it goes to the inability of officers to be able to stop these interpersonal confrontations.
“The challenge is multifaceted. The challenge is about, you know, how do we get more law enforcement to protect ourselves? But beyond that, law enforcement, no matter how many officers we have, will [never] be in the home when a circumstance becomes violent and deadly,” Lumumba said.
“And so we have to look at the comprehensive strategy, the comprehensive ways that we come together in order to support families in order to recognize where there are gaps and holes in terms of mental health, in terms of financial support, in terms of all of the things, the social determinants that often lead to violence.”
A 3 On Your Side analysis of homicides and U.S. Census data shows the three highest homicide rates in the Capital City’s history took place in the last three years: 2018, 2019, and 2020, with each year surpassing the previous one.
Three of those four years took place during Lumumba’s first term in office. 3 On Your Side asked him why killings are increasing each year under his watch.
“I think that we look at the data in order to inform ourselves. There has been a correlating response, the more we have decreased funding and mental health, the more we’ve seen an increase in terms of homicides,” Lumumba said. “This pandemic has highlighted how that type of decision further impacts communities more than anything.”
While homicides are up significantly from last year, which was the deadliest in the city’s history, police are working fewer shootings with injury. This time last year, fifteen people had been shot in Jackson, with one of those proving deadly.
This year, five people have been injured or killed by gunfire thus far, a 67 percent decrease. Low numbers in the rank-and-file of the city’s police department don’t help public perception, either.
Earlier this month, another recruit class began and, for the first time in two years, has more officers who could potentially graduate than the class before it.
Assistant Chief Joseph Wade said in December that the current class has 15 recruits, which would be more than twice the number that graduated last year.
While critics have called for greater numbers of officers as a quick solution to the problem, Lumumba cautioned against that kind of thinking, and used 1995′s killings to illustrate his point.
“The actual second highest year that that homicides took place in the city of Jackson was at a time when we had one of our highest number of officers,” Lumumba said. “And so we have to realize that it’s an expansive issue that we have to be prepared for and it’s an all-hands-on-deck type of thing.”
If killings continued at the rate seen in these first two weeks, Jackson’s homicides would far surpass last year with 156. That potentially deadly future has Terun Moore concerned, too.
“At some point in time, we’re gonna have to come to a collective agreement that we need some new ideas and some new way of doing things and the way we’ve been doing things ain’t working,” Moore said, clarifying that he’s not a politician or knowledgeable about what the city needs to do.
Moore works with Strong Arms of Jackson, a nonprofit organization doing its part to reach people before they take the law into their own hands. Part of their strategy comes through the use of violence interrupters, people who can intervene before words turn to gunfire.
In August, Moore and Benny Ivey, another member, told 3 On Your Side they hoped to have some violence interrupters working in Jackson neighborhoods by the end of the year.
Moore said Thursday that at this point, nobody has signed up, but he hopes that changes in the next few months.
In the meantime, members are doing other things to help curb violence.
“We have a partnership with Henley Young (juvenile facility), so now we speak at drug court, and we just started, like, our mentor program there with the juveniles who are incarcerated,” Moore said. “And we get referrals from judges and counselors that work there for people who are outside.”
Moore said orientation for a workforce readiness program kicks off Friday, with opportunities to reach people held back by economic status or incarceration.
While it’s not as effective as violence interrupters have proven to be in much larger cities, Moore said he hopes every little bit will help the city’s struggles with crime.
“I feel remorse every time we hear that a life is lost in Jackson, and we’re just gonna continue to be here,” Moore said. “We’re gonna keep those family members in prayer. We’re gonna be thoughtful of our citizens, our community. Focus on positive things, focus on loving each other, man, and being mindful of your neighbors.”