Jackson Community and Police March Against Violent Crime | Mississippi News

By GABRIELA SZYMANOWSKA, The Clarion-Ledger

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Shantell Johnson has lived in Jackson her entire life and has been a strong supporter of people with mental health issues for 25 years.

However, Jackson’s mother was not advocating for treatment for mental illness when she took the stage outside Jackson City Hall on October 9.

Johnson, 43, was one of three mothers sharing the loss and pain she has felt since her 28-year-old son Christopher Johnson died on September 23 after being shot on John R. Lynch Street near from highway 80.

“I’m going to be the voice of these mothers whose children have been lost to gun violence and mental illness,” Johnson said. “We have a long way to go. “

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Earlier last Saturday, some 200 law enforcement and community members gathered outside the Jackson Police Department headquarters on Pascagoula Street. As the morning sun filtered through the crowd, people wore shirts with the words “Peace in the streets, unity in the community” circling two hands forming a heart.

The rally and the march that followed around a few downtown blocks was a signal for residents to come together to end violent crime.

As of October 9, 114 homicides had been recorded in Jackson in 2021 and, according to Clarion Ledger’s calculations, 106 of the murders involved a firearm. The city is on track to surpass the record of 130 homicides in 2020.

Jackson Police Chief James Davis said one of the reasons for the rally was to tackle the growing number of crimes involving young people. In September, two shootings nearly 10 days apart resulted in the deaths of a 19-year-old and a 15-year-old. A 17-year-old was shot several times but was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Davis said part of the increased involvement of young people in crime is due to parents unwilling to look after their children.

Davis said he’s seen cases where a teenager got into trouble with law enforcement, but when the police bring them home, their parents don’t want to deal with them. So the child ends up in the street, wandering late at night, he explained.

“It’s sad to see adults hating young people,” Davis said. “It breaks my heart. They’re afraid of young people and all young people want is direction. If we, as leaders, family members and parents, if we don’t put our arms around these young academics, the streets will have them and when the streets have them, it will be difficult to bring them back.

Hinds County Acting Sheriff Marshand Crisler said a program needs to be in place to teach children the value of life and how to better deal with conflict.

To do this, Crisler said citizens must participate in policing efforts, starting with better trust between the community and law enforcement. More people need to provide vital information about who is committing crimes, Crisler said.

Crisler said the department is focusing on tackling crime through efforts such as security checkpoints to remove illegal weapons from the streets. He added that he had contacted Rankin, Madison and Holmes County Sheriff’s Services to arrange for Hinds County inmates to be sent to their county jails to keep criminals off the streets. The Hinds County Detention Center is often full.

For Johnson and Jemeria Williams, whose 24-year-old daughter Shaprinika was killed in February 2020, the march and rally is just the first step in a long process.

Mothers always expect justice for their children.

Williams said her daughter’s killer is still at large as she waits to see if any progress has been made in the case and if a trial will take place.

Johnson steps forward to push for change, starting with unifying the community.

“It’s not the Jackson I grew up in, it’s not the Jackson my grandma raised 10 kids in, I’m the fourth generation here in my family and it’s just not the same, ”Johnson said.

While Johnson believes the march was magnificent, she said more people should have been present, especially with 114 homicides in the city.

“This place should have been full,” Johnson said. “At least one person representing each family.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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