Monsour: Municipal judges need to get tougher on crime

Published 7:25 pm Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Municipal judges need to start getting tougher with misdemeanor offenses, particularly discharging firearms in the city, and making offenders an example for others who might consider committing crimes in the city, South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour said.

Crime, he said, is one of the obstacles preventing the city’s economic development efforts.

According to the FBI statistics and two city rating systems, Monsour told a meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, the city’s municipal judges and prosecutors Wednesday, Vicksburg ranks 21st or 24th among the safest cities of comparable size in Mississippi.

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“The statistics are putting us 24th and Jackson 28th; and you know how Jackson is,” he said. “We’re not a Jackson by any means.”

“We need to crack down anyone discharging a firearm in the city; it’s got to stop,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said.

“Since I have been here, I can’t tell you how many counts of just gunshots that’s been fired in the city,” Monsour said. “You’ve got people calling these crimes in, and our police force is putting it down. At some point, you have to make an example and go ahead and get tough with it.”

Monsour said residents were “calling in in record numbers” about people shooting guns in the air.

He did not give number of calls, but said after the meeting he was referring to the comments he received while campaigning for office and from information provided by the police department.

Discharging a firearm in the air is a misdemeanor. Municipal Judge Toni Terrett said she reviewed ordinances from other cities in the state and looked at the city code, adding other city ordinances spell out the penalties.

“I don’t think the (city) ordinance spells out what the punishment is,” she said. She said, however, judges here have the option to fine someone violating an ordinance up to $1,000 and sentence them to up to six months in jail.

“Maybe this is something you can address by way of an ordinance and we as the judges can enforce it once somebody does it,” she said.

Flaggs suggested Terrett and Judge pro tem Penny Lawson meet with Police Chief Milton Moore to develop an ordinance.

“We want to support you,” he said.

“We can only fix this city and make business move here and stop people from leaving and getting people to move here if we cut this out, and the only way we’re going to cut this out is from day one letting them know we’re serious about it, and what ever the maximum is … you’ve got to stop it.”

“I want to see us and the system we have in Vicksburg making these people accountable to the maximum extent on these crimes that they’re committing, because if we continue to be lenient with them, it’s just going to continue. We just can’t have it.”

If a judge would hit someone with the maximum penalty, he said, “The message would get out real quick. We have to get tough with them to really stop it, because when that person walks out of the courtroom, everybody that knows them or are related to them are going to say, ‘That’s it; they’re not going to deal with it any more.’”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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