Vicksburg Police working to reduce, stop juvenile crime

Published 2:46 pm Friday, November 10, 2023

Vicksburg police are encountering a situation with a group of individuals who are focusing on one target — cars — and it’s becoming a serious problem.

“We’ve had a very high increase of auto break-ins involving juveniles,” Vicksburg police Sgt. Nick Carson said. “That includes a lot of different areas and securing cars at night.”

Carson, the assistant commander for the Vicksburg Police Department’s Investigation Division, discussed the juvenile problem at the police department’s Nov. 6 public meeting.

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“I know a lot of people say, ‘I’d rather leave my door unlocked. They won’t break my window,’” Carson said. “The problem we have with that is a lot of firearms are being left in vehicles at night, which end up in the hands of these juveniles, which ultimately lead to the numbers you see on the board, whether it be homicides or aggravated assault or anything of that sort.”

He said people need to be vigilant and remove their firearms and lock their cars, pointing out that keeping their weapons safe and out of the wrong hands is part of responsible gun ownership.

Carson said youth crimes have increased because of access to influences on social media.

“They are being influenced by some of the things that we are not too comfortable with, so we are working hard to try to get them on a straight and narrow path,” he said.

Carson said the police department has been working with the schools and using different programs to reduce the problems with youth and try and reach those youth who have not turned toward criminal behavior.

“Unfortunately, some we’re losing to the street but we’re trying our best to get them back,” he said. “And we need the community’s help; if you see something, say something if something doesn’t look right.”

Carson said officers are working on curfew violations, adding, “We’ve got 12-, 13-, 14-year-olds out 2, 3, 4 o’clock in the morning. That’s just a misfortune.”

He said the city has a curfew for juveniles age 17 and under of 10 p.m. during the week and midnight on weekends unless they are accompanied by an adult. He said juveniles charged with curfew violations are released to their parents. If a juvenile consistently violates the curfew, the parents will be cited and get a citation.

Carson said juvenile offenses are handled on a case-by-case basis, pointing out that other criminal offenses are handled differently and could result in a reference to the county Youth Detention Center.

Police Chief Penny Jones discussed the city’s youth development center where families with at-risk youth can get referrals to agencies for help.

In another matter, several residents at the meeting and others streaming it through Facebook asked questions about the NOLA video cameras that are being installed in the city. Several residential areas have gotten the cameras for their areas.

“The NOLA camera system is actually free,” Jones said. “The cameras themselves are free. You’re actually paying for the service and you’re paying for whatever it is that you want that camera to do.

“Some of our cameras have what we call shot spots on them where we can detect gunfire,” she said. “Some of the cameras have the blue lights on them. The NOLA cameras do different things. So it’s all in how that person wants the camera set up in their neighborhood.”

Jones said any neighborhood that wanted to have the cameras installed could sign a contract with NOLA.

Earlier in the meeting police officials discussed the decision to go to encrypted frequencies for communications and violent crime in the city. Jones said the department will be using other sources to tell people what’s going on.

“We are now going to be giving out the information on Facebook and the City of Vicksburg’s website whenever something happens,” she said.

“I think some things you need to wait on before they’re put out there,” Jones added. “I think working together with getting out the information, whether it be with The Vicksburg Post, whether it be with WJTV, WATV, any of those stations; we’re going to get the information out so we can work together and give it out to the people in the community.”

She also issued an invitation to the public.

“If y’all have a question or if y’all have any ideas that y’all want to share with us, my door is open,” Jones said. “You call, you come by, I’m going sit down, I’m going talk to you. Give us a good idea. Somebody’s idea may be better than mine. I’m surely willing to listen and if it’s something better than mine, I’m going to use it.”

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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