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‘We have to stay vigilant on our east side’ | Clinton building police force to address spillover crime from Jackson

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 12:34 PM CDT
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CLINTON, Miss. (WLBT) - Clinton has nearly doubled its police force in the last eight years, in large part, to address crime spilling over from the capital city.

“When I came into office, we had 35 officers salaried with 40 slots,” said Mayor Phil Fisher. “Today, we’ve got 65 officer slots and 59 (or) 60 who are on the force.”

“The reason is because we have to strengthen our city because of the spillover of crime from Jackson.”

Fisher wasn’t sure how many of Clinton’s crimes were committed by Jackson residents.

However, figures show that roughly three-quarters of all crimes committed in the city of roughly 25,000 people this year have been committed by “non-residents.”

Through September 21, Clinton Police Department reported 1,229 arrests. Of those, 920 of those individuals were non-residents, while 303 were Clinton residents. Addresses of six arrestees were not known. It was not known exactly how many of the non-residents lived in Jackson and that number was not available.

CPD arrests at a glanceTotal
arrests made
Clinton residentsNon-Clinton residentsPercentage crimes by non-residents
August 1-31114278669%
Sept. 1-21120437764%
Jan. 1-Sept. 211,22930392075%

Fisher said the city’s been able to increase its ranks because it offers competitive salaries and provides officers with the equipment needed to do their jobs.

“We’ve just gone through the process of raising all our police officer salaries, making sure we stay more competitive in the area and across the state,” he said. “We’re doing our part to keep our guys well paid and well-motivated.”

New recruits start out at $27,500 a year. Once officers complete training, salary is bumped up to $29,000 a year, with additional raises following. Patrol officers with four years’ experience earn $35,500 and those with eight years on the job earn a base pay of $40,950.

By comparison, officers in Jackson start out at around $30,000 and are increased to $31,000 after the first year. The Jackson City Council voted to increase officer pay for experienced officers as part of its 2021-22 budget.

Both raises were designed to grow its force, which consistently is short around 100 officers, WLBT data shows.

Fisher said officers are also equipped with high-powered rifles and vests with body cameras that turn on automatically when officers respond to a scene.

He said efforts have paid off, with the city’s crime rate lower than it was eight years ago.

“They’re heavily patrolling our streets and following up on what crime is committed here, following up on warrants,” he said. “What we’re doing is working and it’s making us the third safest city in the state.”

Two surveys, one from Safety.com, lists Clinton as the second-safest city in Mississippi based on crime stats and socioeconomic factors, while Alarms.org lists Clinton as third-safest, based on FBI Uniform Crime Rate statistics. In the latter report, both Madison and Brandon were safer.

“We have a traffic division, we have a patrolling division, and we are working on a drug interdiction division that we’ll be building up over the next few years,” Fisher said. “It’s a huge solution. You can’t reduce crime with fewer officers.”

Even with more officers, Fisher said Clinton still faces some challenges. Hinds County has limited misdemeanor jail space, while Clinton only has five holding cells. Meanwhile, the mayor says the county’s judges need to do a better job of moving cases through the system.

An analysis conducted by WLBT in June showed that just two percent of nearly 120 Jackson homicide suspects charged between May 1, 2018 and May 1, 2021 had gone to trial.

One person arrested for murder in Clinton back in 2019 was out of jail when authorities arrested her on a second murder charge early this year.

“They have to start trying cases, not putting them off, setting (detainees) free and letting them go,” he said. “In order for law and order to be respected, it must be enforced. When the courts are letting people go, just letting them out, it’s harmful.”

As for jail space, Hinds County can only house certain misdemeanor offenders under terms of a jail consent decree. One county supervisor previously proposed building a 72-hour holding facility at the Metrocenter Mall, but the idea has yet to get off the ground.

Fisher, who used to serve on the board of supervisors himself, said that the county or the city needs to step up and build a new jail. “Jackson is the largest producer of crime in this county,” he says. “I think they have a responsibility to step up and deal with this matter.”

Fisher also points to one other challenge: Clinton’s proximity to Jackson. He said cities like Madison and Brandon have “barriers” between them and Jackson. Madison is separated from Jackson by Ridgeland, while Brandon is separated by Pearl.

Clinton, meanwhile, is adjacent to West Jackson. Years ago, Clinton built a “border security fence” at Eastside Drive and Shaw Road to help cut down on burglaries in one neighborhood there.

Said Fisher, “We have to stay vigilant on our east side to make sure nothing happens that shouldn’t.”

Officials with Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba’s office were not immediately available for comment.

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