I attended both town hall meetings recently on Jackson’s high murder rate.
The good news: There was very little disagreement among anyone at the meetings. People are upset about the high murder rate and want action. There were a lot of recommendations, none of which were mutually exclusive.
Through six hours of meetings, there was virtually zero anger at the police, zero racial blame. Nobody wanted to defund the police. In fact, just the opposite. People wanted more police.
One town hall was primarily white. The other primarily black. But the tone and attitudes at the meetings was virtually identical. Jackson has come a very long way in my lifetime.
It saddens me when I witness an attitude in our northern suburbs, and throughout the state, that we should just write Jackson off as hopeless.
First of all, such an attitude is devastating to Mississippi as a whole. Our state has only one state capital, only one metropolitan area. If we let that go down the tubes, our whole state goes down the tubes. There is no option but to turn around Jackson.
The new flag is a sign of a new willingness in our state to leave racist attitudes behind and move forward in a manner of Christian unity. Christian belief and racism are incompatible. The reconciliation that has been happening in our state is a beautiful untold story. Many thanks to our churches and organizations like Mission Mississippi (and, of course, the Holy Spirit.)
The color of a person’s skin should be of no more significance than the color of their eyes. I believe we can achieve this mindset in Mississippi. I know we can.
The point I’m making: To shrug off Jackson’s murder rate as “black urban Jackson problem” is immoral and wrong. As a society, we have to fix this.
So what is driving the murder rate? Its essence comes from sin: Envy, greed, anger, lust, etc. So the ultimate solution is to strengthen our churches and church going. Easier said than done, but constant prayers could do miracles.
The recent Covid epidemic has caused the sudden uptick from 83 murders in 2019 to 128 in 2020. That’s an increase of 54 percent. Nationally, the murder rate was up 37 percent.
It stands to reason that the more impoverished areas would be more greatly impacted by Covid, so I am not surprised that Jackson exceeded the national increase.
So number one: Jackson’s big murder increase was caused by Covid and its related disruption of normal economic and social functioning.
This is particularly true with the shutdown of Jackson Public Schools. Ten percent of the murders were committed by teenagers. Maybe if they had been in school and not on the streets, some of those could have been prevented.
Fifty-six percent of the murders were committed by ages 20 to 40. The Covid disruptions cause unemployment to skyrocket. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, in addition to increased economic hardship. Also, keeping people shut inside their homes probably increases domestic pressure.
The crisis at the Hinds County Detention Center is a big part of the problem. The detention center is under federal court decree. There is basically nowhere to punish misdemeanor offenders for things like shoplifting and other such offenses. That generates a sense of lawlessness that ripples through neighborhoods.
State Representative Bo Brown, who represents the area, called for the creation of a temporary tent type boot camp facility to incarcerate lawless teenagers to show them some respect for the law.
Numerous citizens spoke of teenagers roaming the streets with open carry terrorizing the neighborhood. Police said the new state open carry law ties their hands.
Federal officials offered to cooperate with city law enforcement agencies, but the feds are limited by law only violations of federal offenses.
Mayor Lumumba drew criticism for not taking advantage of copious federal grant money which could be used to hire more police. This needs to be pursued aggressively.
Church leaders spoke of the need for local churches to unite and create a youth center with counseling, recreation and other social services. The young hoodlums don’t think anyone cares about them. They need tender loving care, the preachers said. City counselors promised to fund such a facility and Congressman Bennie Thompson offered help securing federal funds.
No doubt, the breakup of the nuclear family is a huge cause of this crime. Very hard to put that Humpty Dumpty back together again. But try we must. At the very least, we need a federal tax code that rewards marriage rather than single-family households.
The gangs have stepped into this vacuum of no family, no church, no school. Our neglected prison system has fueled the gangs, allowing them to operate at will both inside and outside of the prison walls. We need to get our prison back under control and get back to true rehabilitation instead of pure retribution. Anyone coming out of prison should come out with a marketable skill or trade.
The illegal drug trade has fueled the murder rate as gangs fight over territory. Resolving disputes through gunfire then filters through other aspects of society such as domestic disputes. Decriminalizing drugs could reduce this just as ending Prohibition lessened the gang warfare in the big cities in the 1930s.
How do we get the guns off the streets? I can think of a dozen good ideas, but the gun lobby is so powerful that it fights tooth and nail any regulation of guns in any way. This is a problem. How do you get the guns out of the hands of teens and thugs without denying law-abiding citizens the right to protect themselves? Very sticky wicket.
Here’s an idea. How about giving police a temporary discretionary power to confiscate guns in targeted high crime areas? That way, they could perhaps get the guns out of the hands of these young people. When I was young, we resolved disputes with fistfights and nobody got killed.
For the record, I am against any restrictions on normal handgun possession by law-abiding citizens, but there should be some way of dealing with gangs openly brandishing handguns and terrorizing neighborhoods.
There are no simple solutions. We all know that. But we also have a pretty good idea of the problem: the breakup of the nuclear family, declining church attendances, drug wars, guns, gangs in the prisons and on the streets, alienated disenfranchised youth, racism.
Jackson is on the cusp of a downtown revival. It’s happened in neighboring cities such as Birmingham. It’s coming.
If we can get a handle on Jackson crime, it would turn around the city, the metro area and the state. It would be a success story worth telling nationwide. We need everyone in the state and all our state leaders to commit to this effort, no matter how hard or long term it may be. If we dedicate ourselves to putting our racism aside and truly caring and solving this blight on our culture, society and state, then we will reap material and spiritual rewards far beyond what is superficially apparent.