JACKSON, Miss. ( Associated Press) — Mississippi will spend money to ease the impasse of court cases in and around the capital city of Jackson — an effort that comes in response to rising crime during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens said in a news release Wednesday, “We are incredibly grateful for this new initiative that is going to help us prosecute crimes in Hinds County in a more timely manner and ultimately, we Hope to bring down the crime rate.”
Hinds County, which is home to Jackson, had more than 2,700 open courts as of this week.
Legislators budgeted funds for additional staff at the Hinds County District Attorney’s office from July 1, and for additional public defenders and temporary special judges in Hinds County. The judges will be appointed by the Supreme Court of the state.
Legislators also approved funding for the Capitol Police to hire 37 new officers, bringing the total to 150 officers. Capitol Police patrol around state government buildings in and near downtown Jackson.
“People from all over the state come to the capital city for medical care, jobs, entertainment, events and school field trips, but crime and violence threaten these legitimate activities,” Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hossemann said in the news release.
House Speaker Philip Gunn said Mississippi’s economy cannot flourish as long as people live in fear in the capital.
“Economic growth can’t happen when private capital is concerned about investing here,” Gunn said. “Our universities and colleges cannot attract the best talent here when there is violence on the streets.”
Owens, Hosseman, Gunn and others spoke Wednesday at the Capitol, hours after Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson held his own news conference about the crime in Jackson.
Gipson condemns the barrage of bullets It exploded late Saturday in a parking lot at the state’s fairgrounds, where people were taking part in the Mississippi Mudbug Festival, sponsored by the state’s Department of Agriculture and Commerce. The fairgrounds are less than a mile from the Capitol Building.
“We – me, you and all law-abiding citizens and stakeholders of this city – we are at war with the criminal element in this city. Nothing less than war,” said Gipson. “They declared war. It is up to us to end it.”
Hinds County Sheriff Tyree Jones said late Saturday that a law enforcement officer shot and killed a teen on suspicion of being shot. A serious case of assault has been registered against two other youths.
The second annual festival – Spring Festival of Crawfish, live entertainment and amusement park rides – kicks off after the shoots.
Gipson said Wednesday that more than two dozen certified law enforcement officers were on the job during the festival, but said he would not release details about the security of the fairgrounds.
“When you’re at war, you don’t give the enemy a plan of battle,” Gipson said. “We have security plans for every event here.”