Smaller cities confiscate more guns than Jackson, study finds|[09/24/07]

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 24, 2007

JACKSON — The number of violent attacks and murders with firearms in Jackson far exceeds the rates of similar crimes in other Mississippi cities, but police in the capital city confiscate only a fraction of the guns collected by law enforcement in smaller municipalities, including Vicksburg

A review of evidence logs shows Jackson police confiscate fewer firearms than police departments in Biloxi and Vicksburg, despite those cities’ smaller sizes and lower crime rates, according to a report in The Clarion-Ledger newspaper.

For every gun confiscated in Jackson, police officers in Biloxi seize two firearms and officers in Vicksburg take in five, the report said.

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While it is difficult to form a direct correlation, homicide rates in Vicksburg and Biloxi are just a fraction of Jackson’s rate of one homicide for every 4,085 residents.

Jackson City Councilman Kenneth Stokes said law enforcement is doing a great job, but could do better.

“They’re trying, and I want to give them an “A” for effort. But we’ve got to do more because we’ve got too many guns in this city and anybody and everybody with a gun,” Stokes said.

Stokes said he would like to initiate a gun buy-back program and stop gun shows from coming to the city.

The issue of when to take someone’s gun is getting attention in Jackson because of last week’s fatal shooting of a mother of three.

According to police, Henry Phillips, 50, allegedly fatally shot Doris Shavers, 40, after police had responded to Shavers’ house at least twice over reports of a man with a gun. The officers did not confiscate Phillips’ weapons despite reports that he was fighting with Shavers, who is thought to be his former girlfriend. When the officers left the home, Phillips allegedly shot Shavers.

“I think we should establish a policy that if there is a violent situation dealing with guns, the rule should be the gun must be removed and taken to the precinct,” Stokes said. “Even if the gun is a legal gun, legally possessed gun, that person should go to the precinct to retrieve the gun, which would be a time to cool off. You’ve got to have a cooling-off period.”

Vicksburg Police Chief Tommy Moffett said his department takes an “aggressive posture” in taking guns from suspected criminals. Since 2002, Vicksburg police have logged in more than 1,500 firearms ranging from pellet guns to AK-47s.

Moffett said more than one-third were determined to be stolen, and half were kept as evidence in a crime. He attributes the high rate to the department’s low number of unserved warrants.

“We make an all-out effort to make sure warrants are served,” he said. “That puts us in contact with people, and the end result can be seizing stolen guns or drugs or other contraband. When I started here six years ago, in a town of 27,000 we had roughly 9,000 warrants that weren’t served, and that was just ridiculous.”

Hinds County has a major problem with unserved warrants. Court officials said in June that more than 91,000 unserved warrants were on record, half of which were for parking or moving violations.

During the past five years, the Jackson Police Department, on average, has taken fewer than 50 guns a year off the city’s streets, according to the report. Local officials say that record is starting to change, thanks to a multi-jurisdictional gun interdiction unit based in the city.

Police Chief Shirlene Anderson said the unit had confiscated more than 300 guns this year.