JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - On Tuesday, Jackson Police Chief James Davis confirmed to City Council President Aaron Banks that, yes. We do have a gang problem in Jackson.
It’s taken a while to come to that admission from the Jackson Police Department, even with previous administrations saying that the neighborhood cliques were “wannabe” gangs. While the Capitol City did have national gangs and has for decades, there has also been a steady growth of the neighborhood cliques and hybrid gangs.
And even if JPD wasn’t entirely convinced of a gang presence, other agencies on the state and federal levels knew what they were seeing when their work brought them to Jackson.
Serving warrants and working various operations and details, the United States Marshals run the streets of the city with soul looking for fugitives regularly. Deputy Commander Carlos Cosby says many of those they encounter are gang members.
On top of that, he says that’s becoming more frequent. “There is an uprise in gang activity,” he said.
Ridgeland Police Chief John Neal says on occasion, his officers encounter gang members from Jackson. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the nationally recognized gangs and smaller cliques and hybrid gangs apart.
“Gone are the day of the red hats and the blue hats and the black hats and the Raiders and all that kind of good stuff. People don’t visually display colors like they did maybe 20-25 years ago,” Neal said.
Cosby says the national gangs such as the Vice Lords, Gangster Disciples, and Simon City Royals, which are the Capital City’s most prevalent according to the Fusion Center’s latest Gang Threat Assessment, can be dangerous.
“They’ve been a target of ours for a while,” he said of gangs in general. “Guns and drugs go along with these gangs and they’re real organized, and they’re a lot more organized than people think they are.”
But often more dangerous are the neighborhood cliques, says Mississippi Association of Gang Investigators Vice President Jimmy Anthony. They don’t have the structure and the heirarchy, much less the rules and bylaws usually espoused by national gangs.
“The problem is the neighborhood cliques, they are depending on this violence to earn their reputation that the national gangs have had for so many years,” Anthony said. “They tend to be a lot more violent.”
Anthony says recognizing and cracking down on gang activity will save lives.
“It’s about saving people’s lives because people are getting killed at a tremendous rate,” he said. “It’s a blink of an eye to take a life in Jackson, I just don’t understand that.”