A crime-fighting initiative first launched in Jackson is expanding into Moss Point to help tackle the rise in violent crime through partnerships with local, state and federal authorities.
U. S. Attorney Mike Hurst announced the incoming initiative, dubbed Project EJECT, during a press conference Thursday at the Moss Point Police Department.
Hurst was accompanied by local, state and federal partners, including Jackson County Mike Ezell, Moss Point Police Chief Brandon Ashley, Mayor Mario King, District Attorney Angel Myers McIlrath, federal agents and prosecutors and others when he made the announcement.
Project EJECT, which stands for empowering justice expelling crime together, is a crime-fighting tool first started in the capital city last year. Since its inception, Hurst said, Jackson has seen a 7 percent drop in violent crimes, though murder rates continue to climb there this year.
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What the initiative brings is more law enforcement, prosecutors and community leaders, businesses and clergy together to help reduce crime.
In addition, the program will bring a federal prosecutor to Moss Point and surrounding Jackson County to work with local prosecutors and authorities to help prosecute the offenders to remove from the streets for good.
Project EJECT is multifaceted approach to fighting crime through community awareness, prevention efforts and education.
The program includes partnerships with local and state corrections officials on re-entry programs to better prepare offenders to return to communities as productive citizens.
“It’s simple,” Hurst said. “It’s about preventing crime and it’s about rehabilitating offenders.”
Ashley and King both back the initiative and said they welcome the additional support as well as the educational programs that will go in schools to help teach young people how to avoid a life a crime.
Moss Point was selected as a target city, Hurst said, because of the rise in violent crime.
In 2018, the city of Moss Point saw the number of murders in the city soar to the most recorded in the last 18 years.
Seven people died in killings in Moss Point in 2018.
Among the killings was the murder of one man and the shooting of others during a Superbowl party in 2018, prompting the arrest of alleged members of the Pascagoula-based street gang Gunz, Bricks, Money.
Hurst pointed to another violent crime — the alleged assault on a young girl picked up at a bus stop — as another reason the added support is needed.
Project Eject, he said, will target violent offenders, including gang members, many for federal prosecution because it leads to longer prison sentences in facilities far away from their home base.
Some have already been prosecuted on federal firearms charges for being known users of drugs while in possession of weapons.
Similar charges are expected to be filed as Project EJECT takes off in the city.
Some aspects of the program focus on educating the community on crime and working with clergy, community leaders, neighborhood groups, nonprofits, businesses and schools to educate young people on the dangers of crime.
Other aspects focus on assuring locals that law enforcement is here to help and that reporting crimes to authorities can be done without repercussions.
The effort also provides positive reinforcement to offenders through education and re-entry programs.
The police chief commended Project EJECT along with the mayor and others in the city.
“We will not turn any resource away to turn back crime in the city of Moss Point,” Ashley said. “Good law-abiding citizens don’t have anything to worry about. My goal is not to arrest everyone in the city of Moss Point. We need you to know to report the crime, to help us.”
And if you call in a crime, Ashley said, “let it be known your identity will never be revealed.”
“The key to all of this is that little t at the end of EJECT — Together,” Hurst said. “We can’t do any of this efficiently if we are not working together.”
When asked if the initiative will tend to single out any particular ethnic group for arrest, Hurst said the focus of the project is to arrest those who are committing the crimes and not their racial makeup or otherwise.