57 Homicides So Far in Jackson; Police Force Drops to 392 | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

57 Homicides So Far in Jackson; Police Force Drops to 392

Jackson Police Chief Lee Vance applauded his department's ability to maintain single-digit reporting numbers for crime during this last week's Comstat meeting, deploring a lack of conflict de-escalation between citizens that he said was the source of the rising homicide numbers for the year.

Jackson Police Chief Lee Vance applauded his department's ability to maintain single-digit reporting numbers for crime during this last week's Comstat meeting, deploring a lack of conflict de-escalation between citizens that he said was the source of the rising homicide numbers for the year. Photo by Imani Khayyam.

— Jackson has passed the number of homicides for last year, just as the police department's count of uniformed officers drops below 400.

"We've made great progress," Police Chief Lee Vance said Thursday. "I know that it's not good for a city our size to get 57 people murdered. But they don't call us ahead of time and say they are about to shoot somebody."

The latest homicide in the city was a shooting at the Shell Service Station on Terry Road late the night of Nov. 9. JPD says the incident started after two individuals were talking in the store, a conversation that caught on tape.

"During the course of the investigation it was learned that the victim was involved in an altercation with an unidentified black male subject while inside the store," a JPD press release states. "The suspect, armed with a handgun, fired several shots striking the victim. The suspect fled the scene on foot to an unknown location. The suspect was wearing a black shirt, dark jeans with a black/white skull cap."

The victim, 21-year-old Deswaund Bell, died from the gunshot wounds shortly afterward at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Currently, the police do not have a name of the suspect.

Vance lamented that the police cannot be always present when a conflict involving armed individuals begins.

"You ought to look at the video," Vance said. "They are just chatting, back-and-forth, doesn't look like there is any tension between them. And then all of a sudden, the other guy pulls up this gun and shoots the other guy, four, five times in the back of the head."

The latest Uniformed Crime Report from the FBI, a nationwide accumulation of crime statistics, lists 53 homicides for the city for 2015, with an estimated 67 for the metro area, which for the report's purposes includes Copiah, Hinds, Madison, Rankin, Simpson and Yazoo Counties. Using those parameters, the report estimates that the area's rate is 11.6 homicides per 100,000 people for a total population of 578,246.

Jackson, with its 53 homicides, only has a population of 170,508 for 2015, meaning that the per capita rate is 31 homicides for 100,000 residents. Boil it down a little, and the number is 3 homicides per every 10,000 people in Jackson.

Vance, despite these numbers, applauded the police on their "single-digit" Comstat reports.

"I've been around long enough to know when all of these numbers were in double-digits," Vance said. "So you have to stop and acknowledge that the men and women of this police department are producing a very good police product."

The praise comes at the same time as the police force continues to drop in numbers, down to 392.

Email city reporter Tim Summers Jr. at tim@jacksonfreepress.com. Read the JFP's "Preventing Violence" series at jfp.ms/preventingviolence.

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