2020 proved to be one of the deadliest years in Jackson history. Records suggest that 130 homicides took place by the end of December. The previous high is believed to be in 1995 when 92 recorded homicides occurred.
A WLBT investigation revealed that, among 20 major cities, Jackson had the second-highest rate of per-capita homicides, only surpassed slightly by St. Louis last year. This startling statistic put Jackson ahead of Baltimore, Memphis, and New Orleans. It also reveals that Jackson’s homicide rate was close to three times higher than Washington DC and Chicago.
Justin Vicory of the Clarion Ledger noted, “[i]n a city with a population of roughly 164,422 residents, the 130 homicides equates to one violent death for about every 1,200 residents. It equates to a homicide in the state’s largest city just under every three days.”
The violence represents part of a deadly larger pattern as 2018 and 2019 both proved to have incredibly high homicide numbers as well. Each of those years set an individual record for the highest rate of per capita homicides to have taken place in Jackson.
This startling three-year trend of escalating violence has left many residents concerned. The per capita murder rate continues to rise as Jackson’s population continues to decline and many city residents have sought to flee the enduring violence.
The fact is that Jackson’s crime problem continues to impact its population and hinder potential economic recovery for the city.
As I wrote in 2019, “If Mississippi aims to seriously contend with the existing brain drain, then it must explore the root of what is driving so many young people to leave the state.
According to a recent Nielsen study, millennials are drawn to cities at greater rates than previous generations. Older Americans once sought suburban withdrawal, but Nielsen reveals that millennials are tending to seek life with more subways than driveways. Compared to surrounding states, Mississippi has less to offer in regard to urban life, a point that is heightened by Jackson’s continued decline.
To begin drawing in residents again (especially millennials), the state must prioritize urban renewal for the city that was once considered a “gem of the south,” and it ought to start by making its residents feel secure again. A fully funded crime center equipped with expanded technological capacities to monitor and respond to crime around the city (as was promised) would be a potential major step forward.”
Since that piece was written in the summer of 2019, the violence has only continued to get worse. It is increasingly difficult to imagine younger generations, who prefer urban living, to seek out Jackson as a destination when continued violence discourages long-term residency.
Many of Jackson’s downtown business sections continue to remain largely boarded up. The facades of businesses that once thrived and brought life to the area stand deadly silent now. As Jackson’s homicide rate continues to rise, it becomes increasingly difficult to sell private businesses on reinvesting in “The City with Soul.”