Jackson, Miss. (Clarion Ledger) – Lawmakers and law enforcement came together for a press conference at the Mississippi State Capitol on Wednesday to announce new initiatives in the Jackson area as crime and violence have been at the forefront of people’s minds in recent days.

Car jackings, armed robberies, murder and violence have been at an all-time high in Jackson and Hinds County in recent months and culminated in a shootout at the Mississippi Mudbug Festival at the Mississippi Fairgrounds on Saturday night.

Lawmakers said Wednesday that the Legislature passed several bills that make substantial investments in the public safety and criminal justice systems in Hinds County.

The Mississippi Capitol Police Department received authorization for 37 new police officers in SB 3014. That brings the MSCPD total force to 150 officers.

The MSCPD has jurisdiction over the Capitol Complex Improvement District, which includes the State Capitol, the Fairgrounds, state agency buildings, downtown Jackson, Jackson State University, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and residential neighborhoods in close proximity to downtown Jackson.

While those measures had been on the table for many months and passed by the Legislature during the session earlier this year, Wednesday’s press conference came at a time of increased tension in the capital city.

During Saturday’s incident a law enforcement officer shot and killed one of the people suspected of firing shots during the Mississippi Mudbug Festival sponsored by the Mississippi Agriculture Commission.

On Saturday, Calvin Berry, 15, and Leedrick Trim, 16, were arrested by Hinds County Sherriff’s deputies and booked at the Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center. They are being charged as adults.

Other investments announced Wednesday at the press conference were made through state agencies and state employees and will lead to increased police officers on the streets of Jackson and more resources to hold those who commit crimes accountable in court.

“I have lived in the capital city for half a century,” said Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann. “My children live here. My grandchildren live here, and we are not moving. The capital city is a critical component of our state, and it is worth the efforts that you are seeing being made by the Speaker (of the House Philip Gunn), myself, the members of the Senate and the members of the House.

“The effort is worth it so our children and grandchildren will have a safe place to live and be raised here.”

The Legislature also appropriated funds for additional equipment, such as license plate readers and cameras.

“If Mississippi is going to succeed, then Jackson needs to succeed,” Gunn said. “Jackson is our capital city. It is the face of the state. It is the anchor … And we want it to be a shining example of success. If we are going to be that shining example of success, then we have got to get this crime rate under control.”

The Mississippi Supreme Court was appropriated funds in HB 1628 to appoint new temporary judges in Hinds County to deal with the case backlog. This model has been used in previous years to clear the civil backlog, but these new judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will be able to focus on expediting trials for criminal defendants.

“In 2021, the world and Mississippi was hit by a pandemic of epic proportions,” said Jody Owens, Hinds County district attorney. “In addition, we had a pandemic of criminal justice. Crime rose in 2020 and 2021 that nearly doubled the previous year’s homicides and violent crimes. Despite the fact that the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office and Jackson Police Department solving crimes at above the national rates, our system is not built to handle that amount of crime.”

The Legislature appropriated $1,727,683 to hire and staff several new courtrooms to provide swift justice in criminal cases. HB 1627 also appropriated $744,532 for additional public defenders to defend those who have been charged and indicted for a crime.

In HB 1625, the Legislature appropriated $1,027,785 to hire additional temporary assistant district attorneys in Hinds County.

View Original Story (May 4, 2022)