Flaggs: Vicksburg to get tougher on crime with ‘Operation Blitz’

Published 2:02 pm Friday, July 16, 2021

The New Orleans Saints defense has the blitz, and now so does the Vicksburg Police Department.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. introduced a new program for cracking down on crime Wednesday: “Operation Blitz.”

“That means we know where you are, we know what you’re doing; we’re coming at you,” he said. “When we say, ‘Blitz,’ you’d better run.”

Flaggs said the police department’s new administration under Police Chief Penny Jones is ready to put new policies in action.

“I have met with them, I’ve approved everything we’re about to do for the next four years,” he said, adding the department is getting some experienced officers from other police departments transferring in and will be recruiting new officers.

Flaggs mentioned Operation Blitz during a discussion on crime at his Wednesday evening question-and-answer program.

Telling his audience, “Crime is the No. 1 challenge with me,” Flaggs outlined some of the steps to begin reducing it inside the city, “because when you talk about crime and you talk about economic development, if crime is on the front page, it has the ability to destroy the whole community.”

One target is people discharging firearms in the city, which he said has been a major problem. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen in March 2018 amended the city’s firearm ordinance, raising the maximum penalty for discharging a firearm in the city to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The mayor said he is serious about enforcing the ordinance and has talked with police and municipal court judges and the city prosecutor about actively prosecuting offenders.

“We’re going to give them the maximum fine, maximum sentence and we’re going to put an ankle bracelet on everyone who’s arrested for a firearm and we’re going to track them,” Flaggs said.

Flaggs said the city will make the same effort to round up people who have outstanding city warrants.

“We’ve got people that are out there walking the street for years on warrants right under our nose, and we haven’t done anything,” he said. “If you’ve got a warrant for your arrest, we’re coming at you.

“Be aware of Operation Blitz because it’s coming to your neighborhood,” Flaggs said.

Flaggs also urged gun owners to be more responsible with their weapons.

“Lock up your guns,” he said. “Don’t leave your guns on the front seat and give people reasons to break into your cars and your homes. Hide your guns. There’s no way criminals can find your gun easily and quickly if they don’t have an idea of where it is. Don’t help the criminal.”

He warned people to not complain if they or someone they know is arrested.

“You asked me to get rid of crime,” Flaggs said. “Don’t call me when somebody’s been arrested for discharging a firearm or have firearms in their house illegally, because we’re coming.”

Other matters addressed by Flaggs included:

• Expand the Port of Vicksburg. “We’ve got to expand the port; we’ve to do something,” Flaggs said. He said he would be meeting with Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann about the port.

Flaggs said he and chief of staff Sam Andrews are going to Washington, D.C., to lobby for a $25 million grant for the construction of a proposed new port.

• “We’re going to develop the riverfront like never before,” Flaggs said. “The riverboats are getting permits from the (U.S. Army) Corps (of engineers) so they can have their own docks.” Under an agreement with the city, American Cruise Lines and Viking Cruise Lines will redevelop sections of the riverfront for docking areas.

Negotiations with American Queen Cruise Lines are underway.

Flaggs said later in the program an amphitheater is also planned for the area.

He also said he wants to talk to the Board of Supervisors about some land along the river for a riverfront park.

• “Tourism, we’re going to take it to another level,” Flaggs said.

He said people are coming to Vicksburg “and in the next four years, they’re going to stay longer” when the Vicksburg National Military Park and the Raymond, Port Gibson and Champion Hill battlefield sites are linked together. The combination of sites will help people get the full experience of Gen. Ulysses Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign.

He added Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi has also been a big draw for the city.

• Flaggs said completion of the South Frontage Road extension will help build retail and restaurants at the former Outlets of Vicksburg and along East Clay Street. He said the downtown area is thriving. “We want everybody downtown,” he said. He said efforts are being made to bring more retail to Uptown Vicksburg, formerly Vicksburg Mall.

• Flaggs said several developments are planned for the city with plans for a 27-home development on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the proposed development of two vacant apartment complexes, the South Street Apartments on South Street and Park Avenue, formerly Confederate Ridge, apartments on U.S. 61 North.

Also, Flaggs said, new homes and retail are being built on North Washington in the Kings community.

“I don’t see any reason why we can’t do what I talked about in the next four years,” he said. “I have every intention … to deliver these goods.”

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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