Taking on the role as interim police chief, Yazoo County Sheriff Jacob Sheriff asks the public for prayers and cooperation as he continues to tackle the high crime rate within the community.
Sheriff recently requested and welcomed assistance from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations and the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics into the Yazoo community.
“As far as the crime rate in Yazoo, it's very high,” Sheriff said. “We were having shootings every weekend. Two weeks ago, we had six to get shot here in Yazoo, and it was ongoing since then. MBN and MBI have come in to assist Yazoo, and they are not going to be stopped. With them coming in and showing the force like they did, it has been beneficial here in Yazoo. Hopefully, we can continue that and slow crime down.”
Sheriff said his own deputies have joined forces with the local police force to deter some of the criminal activity that has made recent headlines. With only three full-time officers on the police force now, he said the community is in a state of “emergency.”
“When you are at the bottom of the ground, there is no other way to look but up,” he said. “Right now, we are at the bottom of the barrel. We are trying to get some more people in. But it’s hard because you don’t want to just reach out and grab anybody.”
For now, some part-time deputies are being used to assist Yazoo City.
In addition to low manpower, Sheriff said another challenge is gaining the community’s willingness to speak with investigators. Former police chief Jay Winstead said there had been improvements made in that area, with many arrests coming as a result of communication from witnesses. But Sheriff said it still remains an obstacle.
“The police department and the sheriff’s department cannot be everywhere at the same time,” Sheriff said. “We need to keep the community safe, but people don’t want to talk. They know the information before we even get there. But they are afraid to talk to us.”
Sheriff said investigators are willing to travel to other communities, even counties, to speak with people who are afraid to be seen communicating with law enforcement.
“We need your help,” he added. “If you see something, say something.”
Sheriff said his team is currently on the hunt for habitual offender Desmond Robinson, who is a suspect in some of the recent shootings. Robinson is believed to have fled Yazoo County and could be anywhere from Texas to North Carolina.
Sheriff also said some of the recent shootings are connected, while some are not. Even with a community the size of Yazoo City, he said there is conflict between two gangs, or what he refers to has “wanna-be gangs,” in the area. Many times, random shots fired into the air are the two groups communicating that “their turf is protected.”
“This is also a blessing and a curse,” Sheriff said, holding up a cell phone. “With unmarked cars we are using, some are videotaping the cars and getting the word out. And we have many who are doing these crimes just throwing the weapons out, which is another challenge. And with people afraid to talk…it gets hard.”
Although Sheriff is sheriff of Yazoo County, when it comes to his role as interim police chief, he said he does answer to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in his city role. He has some suggestions that he hopes the city council will consider to begin efforts to deter crime within the city limits.
“If it gets worse, the county and the city are going to have to come together…and fix this crisis,” Sheriff said.