The county needs diversion programs to keep kids out of Henley-Young and in school. Trip Burns/File Photo
Jackson suffered its 26th homicide in 2017. Two men were shot on Saturday night outside a home. One suffered a bullet wound to the foot, but Jamie Washington, 26, was shot multiple times and did not survive, the Jackson Police Department said. Police can do little to stop such tragedies. Interpersonal violence, much like the shooting spree allegedly spurred from domestic violence that left eight people dead in Lincoln County last weekend, is responsible for a huge amount of violent crime that police cannot stop.
It is up to the community to hold the city's new leader and administration accountable for making our city safer—through smart, violence-interrupting strategies that involve multiple stakeholders well beyond the police department.
The Legislature and Mayor Yarber wisely started researching the root causes of violence with the BOTEC reports that examine the realities and precursors of crime in Jackson, as well as the mayor's task force. Crime doesn't just happen. BOTEC researchers found that specific factors contribute to later run-ins with the criminal-justice system and the likelihood of committing worse crime.
Most Jackson offenders "described upbringings that were full of losses, danger and instability," BOTEC found. "Elements of dysfunction included poverty, disabilities, boredom, and lack of adult attention, death or absence of parents, often resulting from addiction or incarceration. Home and school lives were unstable, due to multiple and abrupt changes in income, living situation, school attendance and the location of the home."
Jackson-based FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Freeze told a Jackson Rotary Club crowd recently that understanding the cycles so many young people live through is vital to reducing violence. "We cannot arrest our way out of this law-enforcement problem. ... (We) must be involved in programs that provide escape," Freeze warned.
If not, Freeze added, "They will become the parents they presently don't have."
The mayor elected June 6 must get this, too. You cannot police or arrest your way out of Jackson's cyclical crime. Education, stable living conditions and community activities are just as important as violence-interrupting policing strategies. The city needs both at the same time. We need city, community and business leadership that understands that domestic-violence programs and mental-health courts will help heal and keep families together.
Of course, funding is the real sore thumb of the city's crime problems. The city, county and state will have to join with business and nonprofit leaders to fund real crime prevention. The county needs diversion programs to keep kids out of Henley-Young and in school. The courts need to operate mental-health courts. The city needs to embrace smart policing strategies and not just sweeps. The next mayor must join with state and county leaders, city residents and stakeholders to build a long-time crime-prevention strategy, and then fund it.