Create separate judicial district to fight soaring Jackson crime, State Auditor urges
Creating a separate judicial district in Jackson to prosecute and adjudicate cases is one of the most effective ways to combat the soaring crime rate, State Auditor Shad White said on Thursday.
With 155 homicides recorded in 2021, Jackson has the highest per capita murder rate in the nation.
“Law and order, period, in Jackson is a problem,” White said. “Whether we’re talking about violent crime or we’re talking about public procurement, or we’re talking about white-collar crime, I can tell you that we get a lot of tips from Jackson,” White told the Canton Rotary Club on Thursday.
“I think those judges that you select have to be hard-nosed,” he said. “And I think they have to be willing to send violent criminals, particularly, to prison for a little while.”
An arrangement should be made with Rankin and Madison counties to allow criminals arrested and prosecuted in the special district to be incarcerated in the surrounding counties so Hinds is not overwhelmed.
Expanding the Capitol Police force extensively to take over a larger part of Jackson is another solution, he said.
“I think that I would also expand the Capitol Police force by a lot,” he said. “And I would allow them to take over a bigger area of Jackson so that if you police that one area, treat it like the Green Zone in Baghdad.”
“Basically, flood the zone with police officers, push people out, push crime out of that one zone, and then JPD could focus on the places outside of that zone that still have some crime.
“I think if you did that and you got tough, you would solve a lot of the problem,” he said.
More broadly, he asked, "What are the circumstances leading to the crime? “Why is a young man, 19 years old, feel like he's got nothing to do in life except murder somebody?”
“Well, we got to tackle the school system as well. There are parts of JPS (Jackson Public Schools) that are working really well, actually, believe it or not. So JPS has a great J.R.T.C program. It’s a junior military program.”
Basically, a small group of kids gets put in this program, he said. They get taught military discipline, military history on top of their normal courses, they get exposed to career tracks.
“So they take them out and they say, this is what a welder does. And if you want to be a welder, you got to graduate from high school. And then you got to go to this trade school and you got to get trained and you got to go do this.”
“That program, inside JPS has a 100% graduation rate. 100% graduation rate,” he said.
ACT scores are higher. Their GPA is higher. They have just about a perfect attendance rate at school. “So you’re taking the population of kids and we know that there are some programs that can work for those kids,” White said.
“And I think one of the reasons it works is, for kids that don’t have a father at home, this is imposing extra discipline and teaching kids that there is a pathway out of the neighborhood that they’re in right now.
“So there’s stuff that works out there. I’m just not convinced that we’re doing everything that works in that school system to help kids figure out how to map out a life for themselves going forward. So there's a lot of work to be done. And if I were king for a day, that’s probably where I would start, those two issues. And I think you also have to find an opportunity to use whatever funds you can get your hands on state, federal, whatever it is, to fix the water.
“I mean, I’ll tell you, my wife and I moved to Jackson when we were engaged, this was right about the time when tons of stories started coming out about lead in the water. And I was having to test our apartment's water every two or three days.
“And I just looked at my wife and I said, ‘How are we going to have a baby? And I’m testing the water for lead every two or three days. This is not going to work.’ So we moved to Rankin county and have been super happy.
“But those are, I think, three big things that you have to fix in order to get people to want to move back into Jackson, and also, arguably, more important, get businesses to be excited about moving into Jackson or expanding in Jackson. Because that kind of economic growth will feed tax revenue, let you solve some more of these problems. Probably more than you bargain for with that answer. But that's it. That’s what I think about it.”