Empower Mississippi releases violent crime report and offers potential solutions

Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 7:01 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi doesn’t have as much of a problem with violent crime as other states. But, homicides around the state are an increasing issue.

Empower Mississippi’s violent crime report isn’t an argument for locking everyone up and throwing away the key. Instead, it’s an attempt to show that there are alternatives.

“What we found is that there are a lot of ways to deal with crime, that does not involve locking people up that’s more effective and less expensive for taxpayers, that it is actually possible to have less crime, and fewer prisoners,” said Forest Thigpen, Empower Mississippi Senior Advisor.

Mississippi’s overall violent crime rate was on a downward trend until 2020. But, one crime that was already higher than the national average spiked that year.

“Homicide is part of the violent crime rate,” noted Thigpen. “But numerically, it’s a very small part of it. So that’s how you can have a significant increase in homicide, but not have as much of an increase in violent crime rate.”

The rising crime numbers applied statewide.

“In 2020, Jackson had 6% of the state’s population, but 52% of the homicides,” Thigpen explained. “And so we what we don’t need to do is to try to apply policies statewide, as if we had erred in passing the parole reform that we did last year.”

He references the parole reform. Some critics had argued that the recent crime spike is connected to that reform and the earlier criminal justice reforms. But...

“This increase started in 2020,” added Thigpen. “The bill wasn’t passed until 2021. So the timing doesn’t match.”

Not only that, every state saw an increase in homicides and violent crime in 2020. As for possible solutions, they offered a few.

“Better funding for police, which is mostly a local option,” noted Thigpen. “Better funding for our crime lab so that it can process prosecutors can process their cases more thoroughly and more quickly.”

The report also suggests focusing limited law enforcement resources on the most serious offenses and addressing mental health and addiction issues at the community level.

In recent months, lawmakers have held hearings both on Jackson’s crime and potential solutions for better handling mental health-related cases.

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