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State aid aims to cut Jackson crime; Gipson denounces ‘war’

May 4, 2022 GMT
Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens, center, stands with Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, right, and a delegation of Hinds County legislators, supervisors, lawmen, and U.S. Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., and speaks to reporters about the Hinds County Public Safety Initiative, a project they believe will address crime in Hinds County through temporary judges, assistant district attorneys, and public defenders, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens, center, stands with Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, right, and a delegation of Hinds County legislators, supervisors, lawmen, and U.S. Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., and speaks to reporters about the Hinds County Public Safety Initiative, a project they believe will address crime in Hinds County through temporary judges, assistant district attorneys, and public defenders, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens, center, stands with Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, right, and a delegation of Hinds County legislators, supervisors, lawmen, and U.S. Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., and speaks to reporters about the Hinds County Public Safety Initiative, a project they believe will address crime in Hinds County through temporary judges, assistant district attorneys, and public defenders, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
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Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens, center, stands with Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, right, and a delegation of Hinds County legislators, supervisors, lawmen, and U.S. Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., and speaks to reporters about the Hinds County Public Safety Initiative, a project they believe will address crime in Hinds County through temporary judges, assistant district attorneys, and public defenders, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
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Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens, center, stands with Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, right, and a delegation of Hinds County legislators, supervisors, lawmen, and U.S. Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., and speaks to reporters about the Hinds County Public Safety Initiative, a project they believe will address crime in Hinds County through temporary judges, assistant district attorneys, and public defenders, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi will spend money to try to alleviate a logjam of court cases in and around the capital city of Jackson — an effort that comes in response to increased crime during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are incredibly thankful for this new initiative that is going to help us prosecute crimes in a more timely manner in Hinds County and ultimately, we hope, reduce the crime rate,” Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens said in a news release Wednesday.

Hinds County, which is home to Jackson, had more than 2,700 open court cases as of this week.

Legislators budgeted money for additional staff at the Hinds County district attorney’s office, and for additional public defenders and temporary special judges in Hinds County, starting July 1. The judges will be appointed by the state Supreme Court.

Legislators also approved funding for the Capitol Police to hire 37 new officers, bringing its total to 150 officers. Capitol Police patrol areas around state government buildings in and near downtown Jackson.

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“People from around the state come to the capital city for medical care, jobs, recreation, events and school field trips, but crime and violence jeopardizes these lawful activities,” said Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said in the news release.

House Speaker Philip Gunn said Mississippi’s economy cannot thrive if people live in fear in the capital city.

“Economic growth cannot occur when private capital is worried about investing here,” Gunn said. “Our universities and colleges here cannot attract the best talent when there is violence in the streets.”

Owens, Hosemann, Gunn and others spoke Wednesday at the Capitol, hours after Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson held his own news conference about crime in Jackson.

Gipson denounced the barrage of gunfire that erupted late Saturday in a parking lot by the state fairgrounds, where people were attending the Mississippi Mudbug Festival sponsored by the state Department of Agriculture and Commerce. The fairgrounds are less than a mile from the Capitol building.

“We — I, you and all the law-abiding citizens and the stakeholders of this city — we are at war with the criminal element in this city. Nothing less than war,” Gipson said. “They have declared war. It is up to us to finish it.”

Hinds County Sheriff Tyree Jones said late Saturday that a law enforcement officer shot and killed one of the teenagers suspected of firing shots. Aggravated assault charges have been filed against two other teenagers.

The second annual festival — a spring celebration of crawfish, live entertainment and amusement park rides — shut down after the shootings.

Gipson said Wednesday that more than two dozen certified law enforcement officers were working during the festival, but he said he would not release details about fairgrounds security.

“When you’re at war, you don’t give you battle plan to the enemy,” Gipson said. “We do have security plans here for every event.”