The decision by Mayor Frank Melton and Chief Shirlene Anderson to eliminate the eight-member Crime Prevention Unit of the Jackson Police Department (along with approximately 10 other JPD positions) upset many Jacksonians. The crime prevention specialists in Precinct 4 were regular contributors to Community Oriented Policing (COPS), a citizens' crime prevention group whose meetings I help moderate.
When you break it down, crime prevention is nothing more than deterring a crime before it happens. Simple enough. I lock my doors at night, and that is a form of crime prevention. There are many more complex issues, however, which is why so many cities organize crime prevention efforts. The city's Crime Prevention Unit had two trained and certified specialists in each precinct, and these specialists educated the community on how to prevent crimes before they occur. They were a vital link between the Jackson Police Department and Jackson citizens of all ages living in all neighborhoods.
I understand the heavy burden handed to Mayor Melton and Chief Anderson. They have the formidable task of balancing the budget while also safeguarding the well-being and security of our citizens. Also, the question of how well the eight JPD crime prevention specialists and our local crime prevention programs were working is a valid one.
I am just curious about why it was necessary to eliminate the whole JPD Crime Prevention Unit. It is widely accepted that crime prevention programs are both cost-effective and socially responsible ways to reduce the occurrence of crime and victimization.
This decision caused a sense of defeat in many citizens as well as city employees. Citizens feel that a great resource has been lost. There are city employees who have lost their jobs and now face uncertain futures. Our elected officials seem out of the loop. These are not the building blocks for a strong, vibrant and safe Jackson.
Please do not think that the end of the JPD Crime Prevention Unit means the end of crime prevention in general. Although I sympathize with the two specialists that we lost in Precinct 4 (Sheri Jones and JoAnn Harris) and the other JPD employees, I know that we can still achieve our goals of lowering the crime rate and making Jackson a safer and more beautiful place to live. The primary goal of the city's "new" Quality of Life Division, which Mayor Frank Melton says will replace the Crime Prevention Unit, is to have people at community meetings who can make decisions and offer solutions with accountability to neighborhoods. I can assure folks that communities and city government will continue to meet monthly to solve problems and seek accountability from our elected officials, civil servants, and sworn officers.
As taxpayers, we have a right to know how well our civil servants are doing their jobs. My approach for the last two years has been to become involved in community policing and government in Jackson.
Here in Precinct 4, COPS meets once a month, with set agendas and guest speakers including police, religious, education, business and community leaders. There are always concerned citizens present who identify specific problems that the city should address. There are always neighbors who volunteer their support in solving problems and seeking accountability. There are always city representatives there answering to the people.
In August, we had presentations from Public Works Director Thelman Boyd, Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes and Mayor Frank Melton.
Our October guest speaker was State Sen. Richard White, District 29. He took a quick break from the capitol's most recent special session and came to our meeting on Thursday, Oct. 6. We discussed many current issues, and he provided tips on how to navigate the legislative process. He also voiced his support for the type of forum that we provided, and he suggested getting more of our leaders together in work sessions like this. I told him we do it every month.
The mayor and chief have now put forth the Quality of Life Division and its holistic approach to "offer the citizens of Jackson solid solutions to their problems." The plan is to put decision-makers together with neighborhood groups and organizations to solve problems and create momentum for moving things forward quickly. I applaud the multi-agency networking that bypasses layers of bureaucracy and places administrators in the room with neighborhood folks. I have spoken with the city's director of constituent services, Goldia Revies, who told me that some representatives of the Quality of Life Division would be at the next COPS meeting at Precinct 4 on Nov. 3. We look forward to having them as our guests and continuing the work of preventing crime in Jackson.
Bob Oertel is the moderator of the Precinct 4 COPS program. He lives in Fondren. See http://www.jacksonfreepress.com for a list of COPS meetings in your precinct.
Where is the list of meeting places and times?
Sorry, here they are:
Precinct 1 First Thursdays 6 p.m. at South Hills Library, 515 W McDowell Road
Precinct 2 Second Thursdays 5:30 p.m. at Precinct 2, 3551 John R. Lynch St.
Precinct 3 Last Thursdays at 6 p.m. at Precinct 3, 1475W Northside Drive
Precinct 4 First Thursdays 4:30 p.m. at Precinct 4, 3304 N. State Street