Here’s one example: On April 20, just after 11 a.m., a shooting occurred in front of the fire station on Ridgewood Road, near the corner of Adkins Boulevard. One man was killed and another one wounded after gunshots were fired into a vehicle.
The media reported the incident and it was the subject of social media posts, including those on Nextdoor, but why is there a lack of public outcry when it comes to violence in the city of Jackson?
“I think it’s a valid question,” said Bishop Ronnie C. Crudup Sr., senior pastor at New Horizon Church International at 1750 Ellis Ave. “There is a lot of outrage. There are people livid over what they see.”
Some people in the African American community feel powerless to change anything, he said, while others don’t want to appear too sympathetic or supportive of anything that may be viewed in a negative light.
He added that it does need to be voiced and said it’s a problem in the African American community.
The Rev. Jimmie Edwards at Rosemont Missionary Baptist Church, 3930 Officer Thomas Catchings Sr. Dr. in Jackson, believes complacency is to blame. “People have gotten relaxed,” he said.
That could be changing.
Jackson city council member Kenneth Stokes of Ward 3, who is known for speaking out about crime and violence in the city, scheduled the “Stop the Violence March” on April 25.
A town hall meeting meant to address violence at the M Bar Sports Grill in Jackson drew about 85 people on April 22 to the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum and focused on more crime in general in Jackson.
“The recent shooting on Ridgewood Road unnerved people,” said Jackson city council member Ashby Foote of Ward 1. “They’re concerned about their safety in the city of Jackson.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented many large gatherings that otherwise would have publicly protested violence in the city of Jackson, but people are concerned, said Sen. John Horhn.
“I’ve talked to numerous citizens, faith-based leaders and business people who have about had it with the violence and the lack of effective response to it by law enforcement,” said Horhn, a Jackson resident who was a candidate for Jackson mayor in 2009 and 2014.
“Most people see it as the No. 1 crisis affecting the city of Jackson. I know a number of church leaders have held vigils and rallies concerning it, but I think that in these days of the pandemic people are cautious about large social gatherings.
“The way things are going, everyone should be concerned because it means no one safe, not in their homes, not on the streets. It happens so frequently and so randomly that it puts everyone in danger.”
Like many other cities across the nation, Jackson faces the dilemma of how to curtail violent crimes. Adding to the challenge is an understaffed police force and uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The April 20 shooting marked Jackson’s 48th homicide since the beginning of the year. The capital city recorded 130 homicides in 2020, the highest number in its history. The number marked an increase of 38 from the previous record of 92 in 1995, according to FBI data.
Horhn recalled that the Capitol City Crime Prevention Study that looked at the criminal justice system from the views of the district attorney’s office, law enforcement and others, mapped out hotspots where criminal activity and violence tended to occur and included recommendations about how to use technology to prevent crimes.
“Unfortunately, the study appears to have been put on the shelf after it was presented to the community,” he said. “There was a lot of pushback about it but the data and information was solid and the recommendations were solid. It (violence) has gotten a lot worse than when the study first came out.”
A member of Violent Data Collection Committee of the Mississippi State Department of Health, Horhn said violent deaths are considered a healthcare issue.
Homicides and suicides are the major classes of violent death but so are unintentional firearm-related deaths, deaths of undetermined intent that may have been due to violence and legal interventions and police actions (excluding executions).
Nathan Shrader, chair of the department of government and politics at Millsaps College, spoke with multiple candidates who were on the ballot in different races before Jackson’s municipal primary election.
Violence was a recurring issue along with the city’s water infrastructure woes that voters spoke with candidates about, he said.
“That’s what voters are opening up about when they talk to candidates,” Shrader said. “I’m hearing that in multiple places.”
City council member Virgi Lindsay of Ward 5 acknowledges she, too, is worried about crime, and she’s hearing from citizens who share her concern.
“It is frightening where we are with our numbers at this point,” she said, noting that she is awaiting clarity from the Jackson police chief about his plan to address the spike in violent crime.
Von Gordon, youth engagement coordinator for the Winter Institute, cautions that outrage is not the same as engagement and that righteous indignation never solves problems.
Much of the violence in Jackson results from conflict between individuals who know each other, he said. “Outrage should not be equated with engagement,” he said.
Gordon, a Jackson resident, encourages citizens to engage in ways that are productive, that build up young people, neighborhoods and the city of Jackson.
He quotes this African proverb: A child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.
“In some ways it’s a truism,” Gordon said.