Jackson mayor says city is working to set up office of violence interruption to help address crime on the front-end

Published: Jun. 13, 2022 at 12:53 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba offered his condolences but few details on a shooting that claimed the life of a 5-year-old girl on Sunday.

On Sunday, police say Mariyah Lacey was killed by Robert Jackson during a domestic dispute at a gas station on Beasley Road.

“I want to offer my prayers and condolences not only on behalf of myself and my family but on behalf of the entire city of Jackson,” he said.

“I do want to say that while issues of domestic violence are not new in the city, and not new in our world, I do have great concerns that it appears to be that there is (not as much) embarrassment as there used to be around those who commit those violent acts against women and children.”

“It does not make you a man to hurt a woman or a child, nor is there room for celebrating hurting a woman or child,” he said.

The incident occurred when Mariyah’s mother and Jackson got into an altercation at the Jasco gas station.

According to JPD, Jackson fired shots into the vehicle, which was occupied by the child.

Mariyah was transported to UMMC by private vehicle, where she died.

Lumumba went on to thank Jackson Police Department for its “quick arrest,” and said a man was arrested in connection with a second shooting that also occurred over the weekend.

“There was another shooting where, from my understanding, there was a transaction to sell a gun that went awry,” he said. “They do have a person of interest that was arrested already. That is indicative of the hard work of our police department.”

“It also speaks to what we’ve been speaking to about interpersonal conflicts gone wrong and our need to attack (the problem) from every angle.”

Watch the full conference below.

While Lumumba praised the police department, he said officers need help, and pointed to other issues impacting the Hinds County criminal justice system.

He pointed to a backlog of criminal cases in the circuit court, as well as delays at the Mississippi Crime Lab. He also points to the fact that the Raymond Detention Center is still governed by a federal consent decree.

He said one effort the city is currently working on is to set up an office of violence interruption, which could address violence on the front end.

“What we have recognized is that the majority of violent circumstances are interpersonal. It gets into the question of how we deal with the community and trauma and how we provide other resources,” he said.

Lumumba told the press that the city has received a grant from the National League of Cities and is currently in budget talks to establish the office.

Violence interruption occurs when community leaders step in to prevent a crime from happening. For instance, if they hear a teen is planning to retaliate against another teen for posting something negative on social media, the interrupters reach out to that teen and tell him why the teen shouldn’t do it.

Lumumba did not provide a timeline on when the office would be set up.

“We’ve had some seed money from groups, like NLC, going to provide an ongoing effort,” he said.

Earlier this year, some members of the city council also voiced support for using some of Jackson’s American Rescue Plan dollars to help fund it.

In March, officials with the People’s Advocacy Institute asked the council to set aside $700,000 in ARPA to fund the office for two years and to provide grants to community partners to help with violence interruption efforts.

The council has yet to act on the proposal. The city is slated to receive more than $42 million in ARPA money, with the second “tranche” expected to arrive by July. It was unclear if a portion of those funds would be used for that office.

“The office will be under... as I direct all offices in the city,” he said. “As I am saying, as mayor, I’m not (as) invested in selecting the director, as I do with (the Department of) Planning and Development and Parks, as I am (invested in having) someone who has the knowledge, know-how, and ability to work across (all areas) of the community.”

Proponents say violence interruption works, as evidenced by the number of days without a homicide in one South Jackson neighborhood.

The neighborhood is the Oak Forest Community, a roughly 45-block community bordered by McDowell Road, Woody Drive, and Belvedere Drive.

Operation Good Cure Violence sign at Jackson South Tennis Court.
Operation Good Cure Violence sign at Jackson South Tennis Court.(WLBT)

“We have four guys officially doing violence interruption work, well three doing violence interruption work, and one who does outreach with participants. We have two additional guys we use because we needed the extra personnel,” said Fredrick Womack with Operation Good.

He estimates that at least 70 incidents have been prevented by the group. However, he says the work is never done.

According to Operation Good figures, the area went 389 days without a homicide. The running count ended when a 15-year-old was killed on Woody Drive in April.

Police ruled that the shooter was playing with the gun when it went off.

Womack still takes that shooting personally. “We’re proud, don’t get me wrong, we’re proud of what we’re able to do. But we feel like we can do more,” he said. “We feel like we can do better. We strive every day to recreate how we approach situations so that we can get better effectiveness.”

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