Crime in Context: Shooting deaths doubled in Vicksburg compared to 2022

Published 3:30 pm Friday, June 9, 2023

The Thursday night shooting death of Kelvion Winston, 26 of Fayette, marks the sixth shooting death in Vicksburg this year.

Why It Matters: That number means the homicide rate in Vicksburg has doubled since 2022 when only three homicides were reported in the city. This year’s homicide statistics began in January, with the shooting death of 13-year-old Carleone Woodland on Speed Street.

Driving the News: Local officials say the increase in homicides is not due to targeted acts of violence; rather, it is due to isolated incidents that escalate between individuals.

  • In all six homicides this year, including Thursday night’s shooting death, suspects have been identified quickly.
  • Mayor George Flaggs Jr. and Police Chief Penny Jones labeled the deaths as “senseless” acts of violence.
  • Surveillance cameras have been credited with aiding officers in solving homicides.

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‘Shutting down’ gun violence

Flaggs vowed to “shut it down” when it comes to gun violence in the city by placing Vicksburg Police Department patrol units in neighborhoods based on the number of gunshot calls. He made that statement on March 24; since then, there have been five shooting deaths.

In his March 24 statement, Flaggs stated he would focus specifically on the Martha Street neighborhood, which has been the site of multiple shooting incidents and at least two of the six shooting deaths this year.

“What we’re going to try to do is, we’re going to put a car there (on Martha Street) 24 hours a day, seven days a week so those folks can feel safe, and then what we’re going do is shut out one neighborhood at a time until we get this whole city,” he said at the time.

On Friday, Flaggs said the shooting deaths in Vicksburg this year are “senseless,” adding that they have primarily involved an age group of people who “have no value for human life.”

“These acts are senseless. I say that because none could have been avoided beyond the people involved in it. Nothing but a police officer on site could have prevented it,” Flaggs said. “I still believe we have a safe city, but we have a generation of people who do not value the life of other human beings.”

Flaggs vowed in January to implement a Youth Development Center for the purpose of preventing violence among the city’s young people. The center has garnered the support of the Warren County Board of Supervisors and the Vicksburg Warren School District.

“I do believe the implementation of a Youth Development Center is going to help the situation,” he added. “What that is going to do is create another generation of law-abiding people.”

Regarding the two shooting deaths on Martha Street specifically, Flaggs said arrests were made so quickly because the incidents were caught on camera. A VPD mobile patrol unit is stationed in the neighborhood, complete with 24-hour surveillance.

How Vicksburg’s homicides are different

For the last two years, the city reported three homicides annually — a steep drop from 2020, in which VPD investigated 11 homicides in the city.

Chief Penny Jones, who was appointed in July 2021, attributed the low homicide rates of 2021 and 2022 to “good police work” in a Jan. 5 interview with The Post.

Jones said Friday that the city is lucky compared to some — Vicksburg is not plagued with mass shootings and random acts of violence. In the River City’s case, she explained, the homicides that are happening are “senseless and isolated,” and “evil, evil, evil.”

“I can’t stop it; none of us can. What’s happening here is happening all over the world,” Jones said. “But I can say that what’s happening here is different. We are going out to do certain things in certain areas, and people aren’t being robbed at gunpoint because they’re getting out of their car at the grocery store.

“I’m glad that we have enough love for each other in a community that we look out for each other in that aspect,” she added. “So these things that are happening are just because (the perpetrators) want to do it. It’s senseless.”

The presence of a security camera in some form, Jones said, is a contributing factor to the other half of Vicksburg’s homicide statistics: Suspects have been identified and arrested quickly in every case.

Project NOLA Status

In the last year, crime-prevention measures implemented by the city include increased patrols and laying the framework for Project NOLA security cameras, a subsidized high-tech monitoring system that is set to enable increased surveillance in problem areas.

Almost one year after the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to install the Project NOLA cameras, approximately 12 have been installed in the city, IT Director Pam Newton said.

“We’re still in the first phase of cameras, so we’re waiting on 21 more cameras to be delivered to us to start placing them in various locations,” Newton said. “They are data-driven; we’re putting them in locations given to us by the police department. We’re trying to go to high-crime areas.”

While Newton said she couldn’t reveal the exact locations of the cameras for safety reasons, she did say the 12 currently in place are divided between the city’s North and South wards.

In total, the city has approximately 200 surveillance cameras of various kinds.

“It’s been a good way for our office to solve crimes; property crimes and things like murders in our neighborhoods,” Newton said.

Most recently, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on May 25 approved the $5,374.50 purchase of Aluminum Traffic Boxes from Texas-based Bison Profab, Inc. for the Project NOLA cameras.