Councilman: Jackson curfew marks first ‘hard action’ to address 2021 crime spike

Transparency concerns emerge after city ignores several questions during press conference
Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 10:52 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - After the most violent start to a new year in the Capital City’s history, Wednesday’s civil emergency proclamation and youth curfew represent the city’s first concrete steps toward addressing the surge in crime thus far.

“This is an effort recognizing some of our our most precious resource, which is our children, and wanting to keep them safe and wanting to keep all of our residents safe,” Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said.

He made it clear Thursday during a press conference that the youth curfew put in place to address a spike in violent crime doesn’t mean young people are completely responsible for it, but they’re getting caught up in it more than they should.

“The objective is not to arrest all of our children. The objective is to have a vehicle by which or tool by which we can have them in safe harbor, so that we can protect them from harm’s way,” Lumumba said.

It’s something council members have discussed more in recent days.

“I think it is probably the first hard action. We’ve made a lot of talk and too much, too often. We just talk about things and don’t do things. So I think it’s a constructive step to try to address it,” said Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote.

Foote thinks more needs to be done, though. He points to the need for greater police numbers and a plan to tackle this crime wave from Police Chief James Davis.

While he wouldn’t say whether a no-confidence vote would still happen, Foote said they want to see progress soon.

“There is a growing impatience on the city council. We have a law enforcement ad hoc committee meeting next week. So we hope to see some changes, some actions planned,” Foote said.

At the same time, Thursday’s press conference with Lumumba, intended to “address questions from the media” about the civil emergency and curfew, steered clear of at least four questions asked by journalists in the Jackson metro.

The press conference, conducted over Zoom, allowed reporters to type questions in a chat window that a member of the mayor’s media team, Melvin Robinson, would then read to Lumumba.

Robinson chose not to tell the mayor about questions from the Mississippi Free Press regarding crime data during curfew hours, asked in an effort to see how much impact Jackson’s five-day curfew would have on violent crime, and avoided for several minutes a question about whether Lumumba’s confidence in Jackson Police Chief James Davis had changed, despite 3 On Your Side’s Anthony Warren asking repeatedly.

Eventually, Robinson read part of Warren’s question to the mayor.

“In light of recent criticisms of the chief, do you still have confidence in Chief Davis’s role as chief?” Robinson said.

Lumumba answered immediately.

“Absolutely. I answered that on Monday, I talked about the many things that Chief Davis has been engaged in, I talked about us not having a reductive analysis, in terms of crime and putting it on the feet or looking for a scapegoat with one individual,” Lumumba said, adding that a lack of social events where young people thrive only fuels those circumstances.

“It’s not an issue of the Jackson Police Department doing its job to detain individuals who commit crimes. It is the revolving door and the catch release process that is not allowing the judicial process to play out in the way in which it normally does,” Lumumba said.

Robinson did not ask the mayor the rest of the question, which addressed the now-infamous rocket launcher displayed at a Tuesday JPD press conference, a rocket launcher that had been in the department’s evidence room for at least the last twenty years, according to a former sergeant.

After a little more than twenty minutes, the press conference ended, despite several questions that remained unanswered, including another from 3 On Your Side and a Jackson Free Press reporter.

Lumumba reached out to Warren afterward and answered the question about the launcher, saying “it maybe wasn’t the best decision to bring it out there.”

Foote agrees, saying he believes questions about the evidence displayed Tuesday should be investigated at some point, but believes the focus now should be on the city’s ongoing struggles with crime.

“Those kind of mistakes do undermine public confidence in JPD, and city government. And it’s a shame that that happened. But what we really need to be talking about is actions we are going to take to address the crime epidemic,” Foote said.

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