By Shanderia K. Posey
During the holidays, Jackson Police step up surveillance to help citizens feel and stay safe, particularly while shopping.
But recent shootings and murders in the capital city may have residents more leery about venturing out, and JPD Chief Lee Vance acknowledges those concerns.
“I can certainly understand how it can make people on edge,” Vance said.
This week the Police Department will once again implement its Operation Safe Shop campaign. During the campaign, JPD officers with blue-lights flashing will have an increased presence in different shopping areas in the city and/or areas that attract opportunistic criminal activity.
The campaign targets the city’s four geographical precincts with officers on both foot and mobile patrols. The hope is that with officers nearby, criminals will have less of a chance to commit crimes, and if they do, officers will have a quicker response in order to apprehend suspects. Officers will also conduct high visibility patrols on main roadways leading to and away from high traffic business locations.
But even with the increased police presence, Vance said there are tips citizens can take to not become a target of criminals during the holiday shopping season.
“Our recommendations are pretty standard. Shop in groups, especially after dark. Do not leave valuables in plain view (inside of vehicles) … prefer you put them in the trunk,” said Vance, who noted how criminals will case cars in an attempt to jimmy doors open to steal items.
Operation Safe Shop is in its 10th year of operation and has been very successful in minimizing crime, according to Vance. The program will begin Thanksgiving night and continue until after Christmas.
In addressing the recent crimes in the city, particularly the murder of Broderick Smith, who was killed during an armed robbery at O’Reilly Auto Parts on Livingston Road Nov. 18, Vance said, “What this calls for is for the city to unite. We have to work together.
“We need the public’s help. Somebody knows. They (those responsible for Smith’s death) have told somebody. Just give us some clues. We don’t want to put anyone in harm’s way,” Vance said.
Once caught, the person or persons responsible for Smith’s death will likely face capital murder charges.
Anyone with tips in the case can report them anonymously by calling (601) 355-TIPS (8447).
Ward 3 City Councilman Kenneth Stokes recently told media outlets that he believes the recent crimes are the effects of “drugs, dope, people getting hooked.” Stokes is planning a mental health forum at 2 p.m. Sunday at City Hall to allow residents to voice their concerns about crime and talk about how mental illness is playing a role in crime.
Zebulum James, 22, a Jackson State University engineering student, was denied bond Monday. James is accused of killing Suzanne Hogan, 48, in north Jackson and Kristy Lynn Mitchell, 49, in Ridgeland Nov. 19. His family has reported that he has a mental illness.
“Throughout the city we have witnessed the increase of mental health issues,” said Stokes, referring to seeing people walking the streets of Jackson talking to themselves. He recently witnessed a man walking the street and “fighting the air.”
At the forum, behavioral experts have been invited to speak about mental illness and its effects. Family members of those with mental illness are also scheduled to speak.
“Let’s find out what needs to be done,” Stokes said. “The state has a role to play. There should be a place where these people should be taken care of.”