Juvenile crime is on the rise in Yazoo City, and one alderman said it’s time for city leaders to take proactive measures rather than ignoring the fact that Yazoo City “has nothing to offer” for the local youth, particularly during the COVID pandemic.
“There are certain things that we could be doing in Yazoo City, and we haven’t even tried to,” said Alderman Sir Johnathan Rucker, during the recent Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting. “Are we really working diligently to put somethings in place to be proactive?”
Police Chief Jay Winstead said his department has seen an increase in juvenile crime, especially over the last few weeks. Providing a breakdown of service calls to local apartment complexes, Willow Wood Apartment returns to its leading post of the most calls to the police department with a total of 40 calls last December. And the majority of those calls involve juveniles.
“Nearly all of those calls are juvenile-related,” Winstead said. “For the past few weeks, juvenile-related calls are what is plaguing us as a city. We have kids going around, checking cars to see if they are locked, taking firearms from some of those cars and trespassing on people’s properties. But we are picking some up and taking them to (the juvenile detention center.)”
Winstead also made a public plea for parents to supervise their children and have them home at a decent hour.
“It is alarming at the number of kids who are just unsupervised in our community,” Winstead said. “I am pleading with the community that parents get involved with their kids.”
Rucker said he is not taking any of the responsibilities off of parents. But he did say that city leaders could be doing more. He added that if Yazoo City offered more productive programs or allowed some existing programs to return, it could deter juvenile-related problems.
“We don’t have a lot here for our youth,” Rucker said. “We can’t sit around here and think that everyone has the same household. Every child is not afforded the same opportunities.”
Rucker reflected on the recent request from Yazoo City High School to partially open the city parks for the school’s softball program. Parks within Yazoo City have been closed for public use for the past several months as part of the city’s COVID restrictions.
Rucker also reminded the board that the season has arrived for local baseball and softball youth programs.
“When (COVID) first started happening, I asked if we had anything in place to try to open the parks,” Rucker said. “I know COVID is going on, and I am not making excuses for our kids. Hopefully, we will, one day in this city, have something more to offer.”
The Parks and Recreation Commission told The Herald that they planned to submit a formal request to be placed on the city council agenda for its next meeting on Feb. 8. They are seeking approval from the city board to open the parks for public use.
“It is wasn’t for some people in Yazoo City, I wouldn’t be at this table right now,” Rucker continued. “Some of us wear the suits, wear the dresses…but we are not reaching out. We are not the village we used to be.”