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Jackson City Council Members fear "Police State"

Rural King

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Several Jackson City Councilmen raised questions about recommendations put forward in a report by Mayor Gist's Crime Task Force late last year according to a story by the Jackson Sun. The taskforce suggested tougher property code enforcement and strengthening of police prescence in older blighted neighborhoods that are focal points for crime in the city (ie primarily East Jackson). These recommendations follow a successful model followed in the 1980s by many cities in crime enforcement called the "Broken Windows" theory of crime deterence. This theory focused on cleaning up aspects of neighborhoods that fostered criminal activities (abandon structures, run-down housing, etc) via stricter code enforcement and by the use targeted police activity in known troubled neighborhoods.

Specific concerns mentioned by councilmen centered on the introduction of armed officers into city schools, stricter enforcement of city building codes (including trying to secure state approcal for an "environmental court" to deal with property code offenders), and the overall focus on enforcement efforts over new social programs. Councilmen statements included statments afterwards that police officers in schools would be getting students ready for prison and that stricter code enforcement would lead to a "police state" atmosphere for the city.

Tougher code enforcement and officers in schools don't sound like "police state" activities to me, nor would I think to most people, but apparently to some city councilmen these actions are deemed over zealous means to attack the city's rising crime problem that seems to have started in the wake of the 2003 tornado that destroyed portions of East Jackson and displaced nearly one thousand individuals to neighborhoods throughout the city.

What do other folks think? Is tougher code enforcement and more robust police enforcement in blighted and troubled neighborhoods the wrong tact in addressing the city's crime and blight issues? Are officers in city schools going to create a poor learning environment and foster fear among students? Or are these the necessary steps to get the city's blighted neighborhoods cleaned up, schools made safer, and criminal elements put on notice that their activities are going to be tackled head on by law enforcement?

Further Reading from the Jackson Sun: Crime in Jackson: A Special Report

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The Jackson Sun today has a report on how a public feedback session on the city's crime taskforce report went in front of the City Council, Mayor Gist, and other city officials.

Many locals offered their concerns on overzealous property enforcement and increased policing of East Jackson neighborhoods. Many felt tougher code enforcement would pose problamatic for the neighborhood's economically disadvantaged citizens. On the other hand an accused ""slum lord" in a legal fight with the city lord railed against tougher code enforcement and used the city's tough guidelines against him in court over a burned down structure he failed to repair to the city's timeline as an example. Overall the criticism was that the law and code enforcement aspects of the plan are too heavy handed.

Supporters of the proposal were also present, as the turnout was reported good on both sides, with one supporter stating that he lived under a police state as child in Nazi-era Germany and that the comparison that some councilmen and citizens made were out of line.

Very charged debate on many levels, however I believe the city council will have the votes to pass this plan and its implementation will go a long way to help start curbing the city's crime problem.

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Jackson Sun reports that City and County governments have enacted roughly 1/3 of the recommendations of the "Crime Task Force" Report

The Jackson Sun is reporting that city and county governments are making good progress in implementing the recommendations of the city's "Crime Task Force" report, which offered over three dozen proposals to reduce crime in the City of Jackson.

Some of the proposals thus far enacted include: the obtaining of a federal grant to fund three new school resource officers; the start of neighborhood sweeps by police, code/property inspectors, and health/safety officials of areas with high concentrations of crime and urban blight; the start of meeting between city officials and youth organizations to write a plan to deal with issues concerning 13-17 year olds within the city; and in the coming months the start of the "Mayor's Second Chance Program" which hopes to help recently released convicts transition back into society via various drug, work, education, and counseling programs.

Proposals to tighten pan-handling laws and create an environmental court are also progressing swiftly and should see enaction soon by the city.

The City Government, along with the county, seem to be making great strides in getting a handle on the city's crime and blight issues - which are particulary severe in areas of East Jackson and have slowing been seeping over into adjoining established neighborhoods. A lot of credit has to be given to Mayor Gist who has only been in office a few months but has tackled the city's most pressing problems head on. There is definitely a change in the overall atmosphere of the city for the positive IMO, as the city can be seen pro-actively tackling two of the citizenry's primary concerns - crime and the erosion of established neighborhoods via blight and decay.

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That "police state" stuff sounds like nonsense. Armed cops in the schools? If the situation needs it, I'd think that most students and parents would welcome the idea.

In NOLA, we had two uniformed NOPD officers stationed there and strolling the halls daily in my high school. If a kid got out of hand, the teacher would just give a wave to Officer Friendly as he passed by who would take the kid out in the halls and give him an attitude adjustment.

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