Emergency Declaration Coming Today, Melton Says

Kathleen Baydala and Chris Joyner, Clarion-Ledger June 22, 2006

Jackson Mayor Frank Melton said he will declare a state of emergency today, giving the Police Department broad latitude to bring crime under control in the capital.

Included in the mayor’s plan would be earlier curfews for minors. “I’m sorry that it’s come to this,” Melton said Wednesday.

Melton, the first-term mayor who ran his campaign in 2005 on a promise to curb crime, would not discuss specifics of the plan. Yet crime statistics from the beginning of the year through June 11 obtained by The Clarion-Ledger show violent crime is up in the capital 26 percent, compared with the same period last year.

Carjackings have seen the biggest increase in the city with 101 incidents, compared with last year’s 59.

Melton promised Monday to declare an emergency if there was but one more major incident.

The tipping point was when a man was shot Wednesday while driving through the city. The man was shot once in the head and once in the back, but is expected to survive. And late Wednesday night, shots were fired at a police officer in south Jackson during a chase.

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Sheriff Malcolm McMillin said the mayor has not talked to him “in weeks.” But if Melton asks, McMillin said he would listen and make a decision based on the facts. He said it is strange Melton would take such a serious step without calling him.

“I still am the chief law enforcement officer in Hinds County,” he said, “at least last time I checked.”

Melton’s plan would institute an 8 p.m. curfew on minors Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Jackson’s current ordinance, passed by the City Council in 2001 and renewed last August, prohibits minors from being outside their homes unchaperoned past 10 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends.

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Melton’s plans have been met with mixed opinions. Many adults said they support keeping youths out of the streets after dark, while teens said the curfew would be too early and not give them enough “chill time.”

Brothers Roderick and Jordan Red, who live in northeast Jackson, think a curfew would be unfair to kids who are not involved in mischief and crime.

“Most people go out starting at 7 p.m. That’s only an hour before we’d have to come back in,” said Jordan Red, 15. “There’s really no fun in that.”

His older brother, Roderick, 17, said he understands why the city would impose a curfew. A lot of the crime appears to be committed by young people, he said. “But the curfew shouldn’t be the only thing,” Roderick said. The city needs more activities, like sports camps, for youths during the summer, he said.

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Last week, Melton had said he would attempt to use the Mississippi National Guard—a plan Adj. Gen. Harold Cross called “silly.” Melton has since made no mention of using the Guard.

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