GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - A new multi-disciplinary approach to fighting and reducing violent crime will soon start in Gulfport. Project EJECT brings together all levels of law enforcement, and the communities they serve, to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safe for everyone.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi is now working with the Gulfport Police Department and Harrison County Sheriff’s Office on an initiative to reduce violence and enhance coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting violent crime with an emphasis on gun crimes. U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst started this program in Mississippi’s largest city and said that it was designed to work in the state’s second-largest city as well.
“We saw violent crime in the city of Jackson fall 7% in 2018. There were 108 fewer victims of violent crime. 108 fewer moms, dads, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters who did not become another crime statistic," Hurst said.
By announcing the program expansion, Hurst said the up-tick of violent crimes in Gulfport will be met with more justice.
“We see the expansion of Project EJECT into Gulfport as simply a force multiplier, reinforcements if you will, bringing more collaboration, additional prosecutors, and different approaches to attacking violent crime and making all citizens safer," Hurst said.
Gulfport Police Chief Chris Ryle and Mayor Billy Hewes are eager to forge ahead with the program as their city continues to see increases in violent crimes.
“Aggravated assaults are up. Drive-by shootings are up. Those individuals who are participating in these types of crimes, that’s who we’re targeting, any person using a gun illegally, guns and drugs, that’s what we’re targeting," Ryle said.
“Our officers go out and engage in the communities. They don’t just wait for a call to come in; they’re very proactive in that," Hewes told WLOX. “Whether it’s a community festival of function, it’s about relationship building. Our team has been doing that for a long time. So it’s not like we’re inventing something new, we’re just augmenting something that is already in place."
Project EJECT will also include a team of federal prosecutors that goes into classrooms and educates students on life choices and life consequences. In addition, the project includes town hall meetings designed to gauge how law enforcement is perceived in the community. Hurst said that with COVID-19 still in play, his team is currently working on a safe and effective way to continue this part of the project.