U. S. Marshals Service Director Ronald L. Davis (left) joined other law enforcement, judicial and community leaders for a Violent Crime Prevention Summit held at the Two Mississippi Museums, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023 in Jackson. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

Jackson and Hinds County law enforcement agencies are partnering with the U.S. Marshals Service to address violent crime in the city. 

Marshals Service Director Ronald Davis visited Jackson on Thursday and, during a forum, asked the mayor, local law enforcement and community members what kind of resources and support they need. 

“We will partner with our local partners and be very strategic,” he said. “I think a lot of this, for me. is that I never took it that we’re here to solve problems, but better understand the challenges you’re facing because you’re facing it, and I think many communities across the country are facing the same.”

Jackson reached a record-high 153 homicides in 2021, and had 130 homicides in 2022.

Davis, a former police chief and head of the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, wants to take a holistic approach to addressing crime that is driven by community input and built on trust. 

He said he doesn’t want to bring in Marshals Service deputies as a new police force that patrols the streets and acts like it knows the community’s needs. 

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said multiple parts of the criminal justice system are overworked, which is seen in policing and investigations and a backlog in the state crime lab to process evidence for cases. 

Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens (right) addresses a question as Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba (left) and Jackson Police Chief James Davis, during a Violent Crime Prevention Summit held at the Two Mississippi Museums, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Jackson. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens said he would like to see more collaboration to help with prosecution and investigations. 

“We’re having far too many individuals we have in custody in our jail that we’re not able to move their cases fast enough,” he said. 

Forum participants said they want to see root causes of crime such as socioeconomic challenges, trauma and mental health addressed and for incarceration not to be the answer. 

Lumumba said the city will launch an office focused on violence prevention and mental health. 

Community members also want to be part of violence interruption. Terun Moore of Strong Arms of Jackson asked for financial support to continue the work of going into the community and working with people impacted by violence, including young people. 

Police, judges and city officials in attendance highlighted juvenile violent crime as an issue.

In 2021, Jackson police arrested a group of young men for several violent crimes around the city. One of them, a then-17-year-old Joseph Brown was linked up to several homicides, including the death of a pregnant woman. 

As a Hinds County Youth Court judge, Carlyn Hicks hears cases for offenses juveniles commit, but not cases such as homicide when they are charged as adults. 

She wondered what kind of impact addressing underlying trauma and earlier intervention can have in the life of a child like Brown and prevent youth from going on to commit violent crimes and go into the adult criminal justice system. 

Through Youth Court, Hicks has implemented diversion programs and support for children and families, but she wants to see gaps in support sustained. 

“We have to have some sustainability across our systems,” she said “Otherwise I’m putting Band-Aids on fire hydrants.” 

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Mina, a California native, covers the criminal justice system. Before joining Mississippi Today, she was a reporter for the Clarion Ledger and newspapers in Massachusetts. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and USA Today.