DA Lawrence takes aim on gang activity in Jackson County

DA Lawrence takes aim on gang activity in Jackson County

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - There have been strong reactions from many about the rise in violent crimes in Jackson County.

Some officials believe the rise may possibly be in connection with a growing gang problem.

District Attorney Tony Lawrence has his focus on this problem and wants better tools to handle it.

There are currently five ongoing murder investigations in Jackson County since the beginning of the year started.

"There's an increase in violent crimes," Lawrence said. "There's no doubt, but the biggest problem and our biggest concern right now are gangs."

Lawrence is taking his case about gangs to the state legislature.

Two bills would create a new law that identifies gang rituals as crimes.

"Someone breaks into your house and steals your property, and it's gang-related, now I can not only charge them with that burglary, I can charge them with criminal gang activity - a new crime in Mississippi," Lawrence said. "And I tell you, I'm excited about that."

Lawrence spoke to the Ocean Springs Lions Club to give the state of crime in Jackson County, and it has people on alert.

"It's concerning," said Ocean Springs Lions Club President Valerie Guice. "You want to do something about it. You want to get involved with people who are in law enforcement, and see what you can do to better help, prevent, and grow, and learn from it."

Lawrence said he can't say now if the recent murders are gang-related because they are still under investigation.

But he has brought in the FBI's Safe Streets Task Force to take the lead on the Bellview Street home invasion investigation in Moss Point where one man was shot dead and two others injured.

"I've worked with them several times on other big homicide investigations, and each time we've had them come in we've been 100 percent successful. … I think you're going to find that they are going to go where the evidence leads. And it's not going to be just Bellview."

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