Expert: Stats from JPD chief give impressive but incomplete picture of capital city crime drop

Jackson’s four remaining homicide detectives handle nearly twenty cases apiece from 2022 alone
Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 10:02 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - When Chief James Davis addressed council members Thursday, he cited crime statistics from a two-page memorandum with percentages and talking points, but very little raw data to back up the assertions he made.

The biggest claim from the department: overall crime in the capital city dropped nearly 30 percent from 2021 to last year.

WLBT obtained the memo through a public records request, dated two weeks ago.

That list shows violent crimes dropped more than 22 percent and property crimes went down nearly 8 percent.

Every major crime category went down except armed robbery of a business, armed carjacking, and auto burglary.

The biggest decrease: aggravated assault, down nearly 34 percent.

However, the information on that list only shows percentages for nearly every crime category instead of raw totals from the last two years that were used to get those percentages.

Jackson State Criminal Justice Professor Kevin Lavine said that could be a red flag.

“It can be skewed. I wasn’t that good at statistics, but I know well enough to know that you got your mean, mode and all that,” Lavine said. “These are impressive numbers. And the public does have a right to want to see the raw numbers, you know, not percentiles, in order to make them feel more comfortable.”

WLBT obtained the memo after asking the city for “any and all documents relating to 2022 year-end crime statistics” and included all memos, reports, and notes that were used to compile what Davis would eventually tell the Public Safety Ad Hoc Committee.

The city, however, only produced the two-page memo which Davis read on Thursday.

Lavine watched Thursday’s meeting and heard talk about JPD’s low numbers, particularly the number of homicide detectives currently working.

Nearly three years ago, a 3 On Your Side investigation revealed the Jackson Police Department had eight robbery/homicide detectives.

It’s half that number now, according to Deputy Chief Tyrone Buckley.

Those four detectives are responsible for the city’s 72 open homicides for last year, meaning they’re juggling roughly 18 cases each, as well as investigating property crimes, too.

“It’s alarming. Two, I have to have compassion for those four investigators. And three, I have to have empathy for the victims and their families. Because it slows down them getting closure,” Lavine said. “I know those investigators, some of them were even my students, a couple of them. And they’re outstanding individuals, but you can only do so much.”

Davis told council members that they had 150 officers working patrols, 50 for each shift.

That’s not exactly true.

JPD works 12-hour shifts, four shifts in all... meaning at least 37 officers per shift.

While those shifts do overlap, Lavine said it’s difficult to cover a city the size of Jackson adequately.

“Extremely difficult, because the criminal element will move around the officers. They are very much aware of the numbers as well. So it will be it is a problem,” Lavine said.

Successful recruiting can combat that, Lavine said, but only if Jackson makes itself attractive for future officers.

“Dallas, for instance, they pay 100% reimbursement for school. You know, you have shift differential pay, sometimes 20 percent,” Lavine said. “There’s no difference in the pay between someone with a master’s degree and someone with a GED [at JPD]. What’s going to motivate me to go and get extra money spent, get extra money to go to school and get a degree? That’s not going to benefit me here.”

Lavine said morale plays a huge factor, but salary can’t be ignored either.

Dallas’ starting pay for its police officers is more than $64,000, almost twenty grand more than JPD officers start making.

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