MOSS POINT, Miss. (WLOX) - Authorities in Moss Point are stepping up patrols after the mayor issued a strict curfew for minors Monday in the wake of recent violence.
At a press conference Monday, Mayor Mario King issued a civil local emergency mandating that minors - which is anyone under the age of 18 - cannot be out between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless they are traveling to and from work or coming home from a school event.
On Jan. 28, Mayor King extended the curfew until Sunday. The curfew went into effect at 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, and is currently in effect for the next six days. However, the mayor said he would most likely reissue it at the end of that time period.
“We are going to do everything we can to make this right and take care of our kids,” said King. “Sometimes that means putting them in jail, sometimes that means locking them up and taking extreme measures.”
Penalties for minors being caught out past curfew begin at $300 for a first offense. A second offense will result in a fine of $500. If the same minor is caught a third time, a $500 fine and jail time for the parent and/or minor will be issued, said King.
“Parents, if your child is caught out and they aren’t on their way from work or from a school event, which can be proven, they will be sent to the police department and we will work with local youth court to do everything we can to keep them until you can pick them up,” said the mayor.
Starting Monday night, Moss Point Police will up their patrols throughout the city in an effort to enforce that mandate.
“We are still looking into ways that we can aid parents and help them get through this,” said King. “Nevertheless, if those children are out after-hours, they must be with their parent or their legal guardian, not with a cousin, not with their best friend, not with anyone else but with you, the parent or their legal guardian like a grandma or foster parent.”
The mayor, with Police Chief Brandon Ashley standing beside him, said residents should expect to see more officers patrolling and every possible action available to be taken.
“Don’t be surprised if we have checkpoints. Don’t be surprised if there’s a checkpoint on your corner. Don’t be surprised if you get a call about your grandchild... I promise you, we are going to do all we can to protect our children. If that means taking more force on parents, we will do everything we can in collaboration with law enforcement agencies, in collaboration with the school district. We want to make sure our children our safe,” said King.
He continued: “If you’re at work, you’ll have to come get your child from the police station, and if you don’t come get your child, then the Department of Human Services will have to come get your child. We aren’t babysitting nobody’s kids either so follow the ordinance.”
King also had stern words for parents, calling on them to do more.
“We talk about over-policing all the time. We need people to over-parent. If you over-parent, then we don’t have to over-police...,” said the mayor. “At this point, we need you to over-parent your children because if you don’t, they could end up dead. Thats the reality we are at right now because none of us know what these kids are doing right now.”
And for adults who are contributing to minors, the mayor had a stern warning.
“For all of you parents, I have gotten more feedback from parents. Y’all grown ignorant people out there giving minors drugs, giving minors alcohol, it’s going on in your houses... We see it! You are next! We are coming to get you, too. I am making it my business to do everything I can to reach you, find out where you live, because you are the problem in our community. Stop feeding that crap to our babies. We are over it.”
He continued: “Last night was enough for me. It was just enough. All of the parents that came out last night concerned about their child and concerned if that was their child...We had multiple parents - not one or two but seven - parents that I talked to or legal guardians, family members, who were concerned if that was their child laying there. I know they were concerned because they asked that question and we couldn’t tell them at that time. The heartache that I saw when they saw the dead body on the ground...They looked at the shoes and could tell that wasn’t their child’s shoe or their kid called them and they were finally able to talk to them... But these parents came out there concerned, and thats the wrong time to come out to the police. I mean no disrespect, but the time to come to the police is before the crime scene, not during the crime or after the crime is committed.”
Chief Ashley also addressed the community, encouraging people to step forward and help if they are able.
“I ask if any community leader wants to partner with us, call my office please so we can find a solution for this so it’s not somebody shooting somebody,” said the police chief.
“If this isn’t a wake-up call for parents, teachers and community members then this is a problem,” said King. “So today, we take these extreme measures by working with every law enforcement agency that is available to us under this local authority emergency to come and aid us.”
This latest move comes after an attempted home invasion Sunday left one person dead and a homeowner injured. Last week, a 15-year-old was charged with capital murder after allegedly robbing and shooting a 19-year-old. On New Year’s Eve, a 22-year-old was also killed during a robbery. All three of those fatal shootings happened near Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on the east side of Highway 63 in a community known as Kreole.
These incidents have left the community and city leaders concerned, with many calling for action. City leaders will host a town hall on Jan. 26 with the goal of developing a plan to help decrease the amount of violence in the city.
“This week, I am meeting with drug dealers, people who have committed murders, parents. I’m meeting with grandparents. I’m meeting with parents that might not be so great. I’m meeting with community leaders. I’m meeting with community activists. I’m meeting with other police chiefs and leaders in our community to see what we can do to work together to overcome the disparities in our community.,” said King. “This isn’t unique to Moss Point. This isn’t unique to Jackson County, but this is a problem for me right now. And we are going to do all we can with this local civil emergency.”
You can watch the full press conference with Mayor Mario King and Police Chief Brandon Ashley below: