Fed up with street racing, Fondren residents form task force

Dozens of vehicles gathered in the 200 block of W. Northside Drive to prepare for an evening of street racing, sources say.

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Fed up with street racing, Fondren residents are seeking another meeting with the mayor and chief of police to help address it.

For months, residents in the North Jackson community have had to put with street racing, something they say endangers lives and takes away from the area’s quality of life.

On Monday, the Fondren Renaissance Foundation (FRF) announced that its Street Safety Task Force had requested a follow-up meeting with Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and Jackson Police Chief James Davis to further discuss the problem.

“It is really dangerous,” said Patricia Ice, a Fondren resident and member of the task force. “I almost got hit myself. And that was back in September. And they were doing it before September.”

She and her husband live a few houses away from Northside Drive and can often hear the racers as they speed by.

She said since Northside and North State were repaved, the problem has gotten worse.

Northside between North State and the I-55 frontage road was repaved in late 2019 or early 2020, after years of neglect.

“Northside was full of potholes. You couldn’t drive a truck down it,” said one resident who asked that his name not be used. “They finally paved it and we were so happy. Then the racing started. They’re literally racing.”

“It’s dangerous. It is loud. It is total disrespect and lawlessness,” he added. “We need the state or the National Guard to take over these streets. Short of that, it’s not ever going to stop. People are going to get killed.”

As he was talking, the sounds of speeding vehicles could be heard in the background.

“It starts in the early afternoon and goes well past midnight,” he said.

Racing typically happens on Sunday and occurs along several streets, including Northside, North State, and Hanging Moss Road.

“I usually see them on Northside, between I-55 and Manhattan. That’s when I almost got hit,” Ice said. “That night, when they almost hit me, they hit another car. I passed by the car and a person was still in it.”

FRF formed the task force in February and had an initial meeting with the mayor that month.

At the meeting, Chief James Davis told task force members that he had stepped up traffic enforcement in the area.

Chief James Davis speaking at a news conference
Chief James Davis speaking at a news conference

As a result of that two-week detail, 350 citations were written, including 202 for speeding. The police presence also cut down on racing in the area.

Other tickets given include:

  • 99 - no insurance
  • 49 - suspended or no driver’s license
  • 13 - expired tags
  • 4 - child restraint violations
  • 4 - not wearing seatbelts
  • 3 - disregard for traffic devices
  • 2 - driving under the influence
  • 1 - switched tag
  • 1 - reckless driving
  • 1 - carless driving
  • 1 - failure to yield to blue lights
  • 1 - marijuana with firearm possession

However, since that detail ended, racing has again picked up, FRF Executive Director Rebecca Garrison said.

“We’re not experts, but we would like to see a return to safe streets and a regular enforcement of traffic laws,” she said.

Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote said the problem likely stems from the city’s police shortage and its no pursuit policy.

“We’ve surrendered the streets to the drag racers and it’s unacceptable,” he said. “We haven’t set good policies in place that provide safety to the citizens of Jackson.”

Ashby Foote
Ashby Foote (Source: WLBT)

At the last count, Foote said JPD was short about 100 officers.

Meanwhile, Jackson has a policy in place that prohibits officers from chasing suspects.

The weakness in that policy was on full display on New Year’s night when officers refused to pursue drivers who had tied up traffic along I-55 North.

Traffic along the I-55 southbound lane in Fondren was blocked for about an hour as revelers did donuts, rode on top of cars, and raced in the middle of the road.

When the drivers noticed the police approaching, they took off. Police did not give chase. Two people were eventually arrested, thanks, in part, to a video of the incident being posted on social media. It was not known on Monday if additional arrests had been made.

At the time, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba doubled down on the policy, saying it was put in place to save lives and property.

“The no-chase policy is based on trying to protect the life and property of individuals who come into contact with the chase,” he said. “We’ve seen chases from outside agencies, some of which have become deadly, and several of which have led to accidents taking place on private property.”

District 29 Sen. David Blount, an ex-officio member of the task force, said the city needs a long-term solution to get the problem under control.

“It can’t just be a one-weekend effort,” he said. “It’s going to require constant vigilance.”

Sen. David Blount of Jackson is a member of Fondren's street safety task force. Source: WLBT
Sen. David Blount of Jackson is a member of Fondren's street safety task force. Source: WLBT

Blount said he had not spoken to the National Guard, as one resident suggested, but had reached out to Hinds County Sheriff Lee Vance.

Vance said he had dispatched deputies after his conversation with Blount, and focused on the frontage roads between Meadowbrook Road and Watkins Drive. Since then, deputies have issued 11 citations, made one misdemeanor arrest, and towed one vehicle.

Vance said that area was chosen based on his talks with the senator and the complaints he had heard.

Foote, meanwhile, said he would support dedicating a portion of the city’s $500,000 allocation to the sheriff’s department to increase the sheriff’s presence specifically to address street racing.

In March, the city council approved giving the sheriff $500,000 to provide additional patrols in the capital city, in large part, to help supplement the under-staffed police department.

An interlocal agreement between Jackson and Hinds County still must be worked out, and Foote said provisions could be added for deputies to work traffic.

“What the specifics of it will be, we’ll have to sit down with legal and work that out,” he said. “To the extent we can apply that money to help address drag racing, that would be fine with me.”

Lumumba and JPD spokesman Officer Sam Brown could not be reached for comment.

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