/Homicide rate climbs as Clarksdale police tackle internal issues, staff shortage

Homicide rate climbs as Clarksdale police tackle internal issues, staff shortage

Residents expressed concerns over safety and the high crime rate in Coahoma County through Facebook posts and discussions with local officials. According to a handout that the police department provided to citizens at the November 12 board meeting of commissioners and mayors, this year has seen 13 homicides, with one officer-involved shooting resulting in a death. In 2016, there were only six. Mississippi Today asked for detailed crime reports. They wanted to know the number and total crimes, as well as the number committed by juveniles between 2013 and present. However, they have yet to receive them from the police department. Clarksdale Police Chief Sandra Williams said that seven of the 13 homicides this past year were solved. Williams is the first black woman to hold the position. She said that many of them were retaliation homicides, and they deal with gang involvement. She stated that “we will not stop working every day as a unit to prevent some crime that’s happening in this community.” We all know that there have been a lot of shootings in the past few weeks. “That is a concern for me.” Residents are still disturbed by the constant reports of gunfire and burglaries, as well as robberies. Clarksdale native Nikole, forty-years-old, expressed concern to the mayor and four city commissioners earlier this month. She stated that her children were advised to lie on the ground after a shooting occurred less than a month ago. Powell said, “Is it likely that you must get on the ground… I get up every day like everyone else in this room and go to work at five o’clock in morning, but I (am) afraid to leave the house.” Do we have enough police officers to protect the city? We also pay a lot in taxes. That’s right ….. We should feel safe. It’s time for the citizens and the board and anyone else to take back our city.” The mayor, commissioners and chief of police acknowledged citizens’ concerns and offered solutions to the problem. Mayor Chuck Espy explained that there were officers who could not accurately write reports. “We are talking about traffic citations, and can’t complete a report. He said that he was referring to murder investigations. It’s alarming to see what has happened over the past 15 years. “I’m referring to botched investigations across the board.” There are currently 33 officers at Clarksdale Police Department. This is a decrease of 12 officers since last year, Williams said. The board however approved the offer to employ five additional police officers, bringing their total to 38. Williams also announced that they are looking to hire more officers on Nov. 19. Williams stated that the department was in dire need of outside assistance because the numbers were down. Williams said that they are currently working together with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Mississippi Bureau of Investigations, and Coahoma County Sheriff Department. Fernando Hill, a Clarksdale native and former Homeland Security employee, was also approved by the city. Williams stated that she was aware of “rumors” about police officers tipping off drug dealers when she started her job. She said that she found officers that were “subordinate”, had problems adapting to change and lacked discipline. However, she also stated that she was able to identify officers who are hardworking and honest. Williams suggested that customers be trained in anger management, customer service, community policing and formal disciplinary actions, suspensions and education of officers are all possible. These parents want to see changes and encourage residents to stay in Clarksdale. She said that she knows relatives who have moved away and would not move back. She recalled moving one of her sons from Texas to Texas and how many parents had to do it. The elected officials have promised to stop the crime. Espy said, “You asked me for help cleaning up the garbage and I’m here.” “I promise that by the end of two years you’ll see something so completely different that it’s going be a good.” Commission Bo Plunk encouraged the community to keep the officials informed about the progress. “Y’all hear more than the police. Please come back to let us know the latest. He said, “Y’all are our gauge.” “We listen to what citizens have to say. “We act on what the citizens say. If enough people come in here and say it, like the old proverb, there’s a little fire or little truth somewhere. Last Monday night, more than 15 elected officials from all three levels – local, state, and federal – met at the Coahoma County Courthouse last Monday to hear solutions proposed by residents of Coahoma County to reduce crime. A lack of economic development and the cycle of poverty are two of the obstacles that hinder progress. During the discussion, education and mental health awareness were also key topics. “Remember when Chicagoans were getting murdered every weekend?” We weren’t concerned. Milton Gardner said that it didn’t bother them, and now the rooster is back at home. Veronica Stuckey said, “We have a manifestation poverty.” If people are faced with a choice between right and wrong or trying to survive, which do you think they will choose? They will choose survival, which is why a lot of robbing and stealing and murdering occur.” Twelve people shared their ideas. There were many solutions to be discussed, including a mandatory curfew and stricter gun laws. They also suggested building a recreational centre, strengthening parental involvement, using crime stoppers, holding each others accountable, connecting youth to job readiness and programs, changing their mindset, and allowing the police officers to do what they are supposed to. Chandra Williams, Crossroads Cultural Art Center’s executive director, stated that “if we want to see change, we just need to follow the steps to make it happen.” According to Espy.
, the next steps will be taken by city officials.