In the first week of May there were six homicides in Jackson, Mississippi. How many more will there be before the end of the month?
Last year Jackson had the highest homicide rate of any city in America, with 155 homicides. To put that grisly statistic in perspective, that was about the same number of homicides as happened in Atlanta, a city with almost four times the population.
As a recent arrival in the city, what shocks me is not the murder rate, but the attitude of those who make endless excuses for it.
Some officials invoke that catch-all excuse for every failure, Covid. Homicide rates did increase at the same time that there was a pandemic, but correlation is not causation. I am unconvinced that the virus somehow made people more violent.
Some of the Mississippi media seem desperate to avoid being seen to blame Jackson’s city leadership. Rather like the failure to provide the city with running water, everything but the city leadership is held responsible. Why? It does a disservice to Jackson residents.
Honest reporting should hold to account those making bad public policy choices today, and not insist on looking at everything that happens in Mississippi in 2022 through the prism of a distant past.
There is far too much wishful thinking when it comes to crime. If only, some imply, we had one more rehabilitation program or enacted another bill that purported to help ex-offenders all would be okay. Sadly, good intentions don’t cut crime. Being honest about the causes of crime might.
Responsibility for crime lies with criminals. Responsibility for failing to deal with criminals rests with those public officials mandated to run the criminal justice system.
Next time there is another killing, Jackson’s leaders will do what they always do. They will emote about it. What we need to hear instead is what they will actually do.
Here are five specific actions they could take that would cut crime in Jackson:
- More police: Despite the often heroic efforts of individual law enforcement officers, there are simply not enough of them.
- Prosecute: No matter how effective the police are at chasing suspects through the streets, there are serious failings when it comes to pursuing them through the courts. Who in Jackson has not heard stories of suspects being allowed to walk free?
- Detention: The failure to have enough detention capacity in Hinds County is outrageous. Build it.
- Clear the courts: The bureaucratic backlog in the courts is perhaps the single biggest impediment to effective justice. Clear the backlog of cases. If those that administer the court system can’t cope, bring in administrators that can.
- Work with the state: Every city likes to manage its own affairs. I get that. But the state capital ought to be able to team up with state-wide officials, police forces and prosecutors to tackle a problem that impacts us all.
I live and work in Jackson – and I love to call this city home. Jackson might seem caught in downward spiral, but every city has the power to regenerate itself.
New York in the early 80s seemed caught in a spiral of decline. But the city revived once it got a grip on crime. The key to Jackson’s future is to follow this example.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
Douglas Carswell is the President & CEO of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.