Using FBI crime data, a public policy group has assessed that the homicide rate in Mississippi spiked 66 percent from 2017 to 2020, leading to the organization’s call for more police funding.

Empower Mississippi (EM) has produced a December report (pdf) examining violent crime statistics.

Em’s Senior Advisor Forest Thigpen said the report is intended to examine the facts in order to reach potential solutions.

“Crime affects everyone, directly or indirectly, and everyone should be concerned about it,” he said in a press release on the report. “Families, churches, communities, and of course government all have roles in addressing it.”

In its report, EM said that while violent crime was 27 percent lower than the national average in 2020, the state’s homicide rate accelerated, concentrating mostly in the state capital of Jackson, where the shootings are reported weekly.

In neighboring states of Tennessee and Alabama, the three-year homicide rate increased by 20 and 12 percent, respectively.

According to EM, in 2020, Jackson reported 110 homicides, which accounts for more than half of the total of 213 homicides in the state.

In Hinds County, where Jackson is located, homicides declined 43 percent outside of the city limits from 2019 to 2020 and fell 33 percent over the past decade, the report said, “demonstrating that the problem is concentrated in the city itself.”

“Although violent crime rates increased in urban and rural areas, the sheer number of homicides in the Capital City skews Mississippi’s data,” the report stated. “Jackson accounted for less than 6 percent of the state’s population in 2020 but more than 50 percent of all homicides.”

The report said all states in 2020 experienced an increase in homicides, which includes states that passed justice reform and those that didn’t.

“The national homicide rate had remained relatively stable from 2010-2019, but it saw a marked increase from 2019- 2020 at 27 percent,” the report said.

There was a one-year jump in violent crime from 2019 to 2020, with Mississippi spiking at 11 percent.

Though it remains to be determined, social unrest, political division, and the pandemic lockdown are among the explanations that have been suggested as causes for the spike, the report said.

More Police; Less Incarceration

Overall, the report proposes more police and less incarceration.

As of 2022, the report said, Mississippi has the highest imprisonment rate in the country, having incarcerated more people than in 2019.

“Notably, however, this is not due to the increase in violent crimes,” the report said. “In 2021, 73 percent of prison admissions were for drug or other nonviolent crimes, indicating that law enforcement and prosecutors, at least in some locations, are not prioritizing violent crime.”

Despite the call to defund the police in 2020, the report recommends the opposite: more funding to “attract, pay well, and properly train officers.”

The report also said to focus law enforcement resources on serious offenses, and that mental health and addiction issues should be addressed on a community level.

In April 2022, the Department of Justice put the Mississippi State Penitentiary on notice for—among other violations—failing to provide adequate mental health treatment.

Ex-convicts usually commit crimes within 12 months of being released, the report said, which is why rehabilitation within prison is significant in preventing recidivism.

“These are elements in a substantially better long-term strategy for public safety than reverting to a ‘lock everyone up and throw away the key’ mentality that is both costly and ineffective,” the report said.

Matt McGregor covers news and features throughout the United States. Send him your story ideas:
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