Local professor speaks to potential role of social workers in reducing crime in Jackson

Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 10:56 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 13, 2021 at 10:57 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson leaders are beginning to discuss the role social workers could play in curbing crime.

It comes as an increasing number of youth commit violent acts across the city.

Most recently, a man was shot in the leg during a carjacking Sunday morning. Jackson Police say the suspect in that case is just 14 years old.

“It is outrageous,” Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote said. “It is scary to the average citizens, and it is scary to me as a councilperson that that kind of behavior is happening out there with youngsters who are only 14 or 15 years old.”

As killings increase in the Capital City, Councilman Foote said city leaders need to be open to every possible solution.

One proposal put forth by Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes is a youth curfew in which social workers would step in if a minor is found violating it multiple times.

Dr. Brian Anderson, a social worker and professor at Jackson State University, said social workers could play a valuable role in the city’s crime crisis, but it’s not as simple as pointing them toward a child who’s not home on time.

“We don’t want to be into the police game,” Anderson said. “We want to make sure that we are into the helping game. We want to be the mediators because it’s about the relationship too.”

“We have to make sure that we are getting the background information. Let’s find out: what are your family dynamics? How can we actually assist the family? The parents [may need] parental training, or it might be conflict resolution for the kids.”

Beyond the curfew, Anderson said he and his colleagues are looking at ways to prevent violence in the club or nightlife scene and whether requiring school-aged kids to participate in extracurricular activities could keep some from breaking the law.

He said it wouldn’t require a new organization or additional social workers to make an impact but rather more collaboration between existing groups.

“As it relates to school districts, Child Protective Services, the Department of Human Services, you want to make sure that these are all interacting and interfacing with each other to address the problem,” Anderson said.

Over the last month, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has said he plans to hold a town hall with social workers to figure out how they could reduce violence in the city.

Anderson said more communication and brainstorming is exactly what it’ll take to make that determination.

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