Updated: Feb 23
“The crime rate is out of hand, and the recklessness and senselessness that got my son killed, I’m angry, I’m so angry,” - said Ms. Kyoukius Washington, mother of 6 y/o murdered in the City of McComb while playing in Central Park on a Sunday afternoon (As reported by the Enterprise Journal's Matt Williamson on Monday 2/21/22). Date of Incident: 2/20/22.
Another (12 year old) innocent child was also airlifted to Jackson after being shot in the same drive-by. Id. Date of Incident: 2/20/22.
The next day . . .
“A McComb man was charged with felonious child abuse after his 2-year-old son was pronounced dead at Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center on Monday morning, said Pike County Sheriff James Brumfield.” (As reported by the Enterprise Journal's Ernest Herndon on Wednesday 2/23/22). Date of Incident: 2/21/22.
Even a recent editorial in the EJ has opined that “if McComb and Pike County leaders make wise decisions in the coming weeks and months, Sunday’s shooting could turn out to be the tipping point where everyone finally stopped making excuses and simply said, 'That’s enough.'”
Editor Jack Ryan continued explaining there's been enough random gunfire in our city neighborhoods, enough of the repeat troublemakers . . . who get arrested by police but are then released to their parents when there is nowhere to keep them in custody and enough avoiding addressing the issue of youth crime in our community.
The truth is, there is a problem with criminal activity among our county's youth. The graph below shows that criminal acts by teens (AKA delinquencies) have trended down in number since 2005; however, having prosecuted all of the almost 13,000 cases in the youth court since then, I can say with some degree of certainty that although fewer delinquent acts are being committed, that those being committed are generally more
severe in nature than in the past. In short, violence among teens, drug use and burglaries appear much more prevalent than in the past.
The truth is, repeat offenders constitute a large portion of the cases, many of these offenders, who should be detained, do summarily get released to a parent and, as Mr. Ryan pointed out, when youth offenders know there are few if any consequences to their actions, they begin to believe “they can break the law and get away with it.”
It is my fervent belief that justice can only be served and the crime trend among teen offenders can be reduced if the Pike County Court Judge has two things – the ability to put a child in detention and the authority to do so. As of the present, the court only has the authority with no ability in many cases, insofar as Pike County has no juvenile detention facility and our Sheriff's Department, when there is room, are often required to transport juveniles to and from places as far away as the northern half of the state.
Do we want to protect innocent children? Do we want to protect citizens from gang violence? Do we want to prevent adult crime by rehabilitation of our delinquent youths before they become career criminals? Many say this should start at home. I agree; however, a review of the number of abuse and neglect cases per year since 2005 (see the number of neglect and abuse cases per year (above)) indicates that poor parenting is on the rise and many children lack any social/familial support system. This brings me to the next alternative, which is the ability to detain these children in a facility when necessary.
In 2017, the Pike County Court Judge proposed a new detention center – oddly citing the exact problems with housing we continue to endure. Nothing was done. Again in 2021, the Judge, accompanied by myself, our sheriff and multiple local police chiefs, made the proposal; however, no action was immediately taken. I further openly supported his proposal at subsequent speaking engagements and have pushed for community support for a new detention center – as has law enforcement.
Now, in the wake of Sunday's drive-by shootings, community citizens and leaders seem to be coming around on the issue. As Mr. Ryan pointed out:
[A]nybody who now would oppose a county youth detention facility on the premise that it would raise property taxes needs to rethink that. Sunday’s shooting put an exclamation point on McComb’s ongoing problem with young men and guns.
One of any government’s essential functions is public safety, and when people can’t go to a park on a Sunday afternoon without putting their lives in danger, it is time to fix things.
Pike County and McComb can address this problem by building a facility where repeat juvenile offenders, or those who commit the worst crimes, can be held. We can no longer depend on other counties for this service. We have to build it ourselves, and pay for it ourselves.
And we do have to build and pay for it ourselves – if the juvenile justice system in this county is to have the tools necessary to do it's job. What will a detention center cost? Far less than we've lost in the last several days.
Please keep the families and victims of those mentioned herein in your thoughts and prayers in this tragic time.