CLARKSDALE – To reduce crime in this city of about 16,000, Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy has a straight forward plan – he’s inviting “drug dealers, gang members and want-to-be criminals” to get out of town. And Espy, says, he’ll put up $10,000 of his own money to provide moving assistance, he told local reporters at a news conference Monday at City Hall.

“I know there are some people who feel that they have some problems in the city like being drug dealers, or being gang members, or they just can’t control themselves,” said Espy. “I will put money on the line to assist those types of people to move out of the city.”

The moving fund is “as deep as the mayor’s pockets,” and there will be benchmarks individuals must show, then city officials will help those individuals find leasing opportunities in other cities, he added. Here’s a link to the Facebook live video of the conference.

“It’s not to say that you want a criminal to move from one city to the next. They just may not have the good opportunities that they need in this city,” said Espy.

The measures come after residents voiced concern last year about the increase in crime and homicide rates, reported Mississippi Today. Not long after that, six months ago, the Clarksdale Police Department conducted a one-year assessment of the department. The department then rolled out a corrective action plan to prevent crime.

On Monday, Espy announced an additional five points to bolster that plan: a no tolerance policy, rehabilitation program, intervention, the preservation of life and moving assistance.

Chief of Police Sandra Williams, the first woman and African American woman to serve in the position, noted the measures the department has already taken to ensure the safety of its citizens, including employing additional officers and community policing.

“If you’re caught doing crime in the city, then we would definitely send you through the criminal justice system,” said Williams. “You will be punished to the fullest extinct.”

But, now with the summer creeping in, “It’s time for us to double down on our efforts,” she added.

And for those who want to stay and get a “second chance,” an etiquette class for criminals will be put in place, said Rev. John Givins, city chaplain.

Since last year, Williams mentioned crime has significantly decreased. So far, there has only been one homicide, she said. By November 2018, the city had recorded 12 homicides.

“We want everyone in the city of Clarksdale to live safe, to be safe … We do not want to see a child dead in the streets. We do not want to see an innocent bystander getting shot,” said Espy. “It does not matter to us about where we are or how we’re moving the needle … we just want to make sure we’re being proactive.”

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Aallyah Wright is a native of Clarksdale, and was a Mississippi Delta reporter covering education and local government. She was also a weekly news co-host on WROX Radio (97.5 FM) and collaborator with StoryWorks/Reveal Labs from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Aallyah has a bachelor’s in journalism with minors in communications and theater from Delta State University. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report, and co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.