Banks: Council ready to take action on overtime funding, grant matches following Tuesday crime summit

Published: May. 6, 2021 at 10:17 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Following Tuesday’s special council meeting, Jackson city leaders now have a coalition of county, state and federal partners, all with one mission: reducing crime in the state’s largest city.

Council President Aaron Banks said they also have a more clear-cut path to securing overtime funding and match grants for the city’s understaffed police department.

“That’s what the council is ready to take action on. And hopefully, we’ll be able to walk in lockstep with the mayor, the administration and the city council to address this crisis on crime,” Banks said.

Tuesday’s special meeting -- dubbed a crime summit -- served as a meeting of the minds to help tackle the city’s spike in violent crime.

Officials from all levels of government attended the three-hour event at New Horizon Church International, including acting U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca, state legislators, heads of state agencies and U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Bolton native.

“We are prepared to work hand in hand with the city and the county but the one thing we try not to do is duplicate services,” Thompson said. “That means the city and county are going to have to work together. Otherwise, we’re just kind of wasting money.”

One solution Thompson suggested would involve taking shuttered JPS school buildings and turning them into community centers for at-risk youth, saving taxpayer money and fulfilling a need.

“There are a lot of resources that we can capitalize on, that will help us not just with funding police, but [Thompson] talked about funding with the houses of worship that will help do community things,” Banks said. “He talked about funding opportunities for other community based organizations that help deal with some of the things that can help address mental health.”

Hinds County Sheriff Lee Vance says he’s encouraged by the conversations, particularly those revolving around additional mental health services.

“We have individuals now that are incarcerated down at the Raymond Detention Center, that are waiting on mental evaluations before their journey through the criminal justice system can continue,” Vance said. “There’s a very limited amount of beds for these individuals to be taken to for those evaluations. So while we wait for that, they remain in the Raymond Detention Center. It slows down the criminal justice process.”

Vance also pointed out that Tuesday’s meeting wasn’t necessarily a first step, but more of an attempt to get everyone on the same page.

“I guess I would probably say [it’s] more of a reset, because I’ve seen times during my career at the JPD, when we had partnerships with some of the same individual groups that were represented the other night. I think it worked well then. And I think it has an opportunity to work well again,” Vance said.

The sheriff also reiterated that the public needs to understand that this won’t fix the problem of crime overnight.

“Hopefully they will glean positive results, but this is going to be a tremendous undertaking,” Vance said.

The most significant development coming out of Tuesday’s meeting, Banks said, was that Jackson’s pastors and church leaders said they wanted to unite to help in the fight against crime.

Senior pastor Dwayne K. Pickett acknowledged that during the meeting.

“None of us can do it all. It has to be a collective. And we can’t be in competition,” Pickett said to the crowd, which applauded the sentiment.

Police Chief James Davis said that cooperation from clergy alone is a key ingredient in fighting crime.

“We’ve been meeting months on top of months, talking about how we can touch people who are committing senseless crimes, especially between loved ones,” Davis said. “I am very encouraged by that. I think it’s a new day in Jackson.”

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