Crime On Hwy 80 Gets Political - - Jackson, MS

Jackson 03/31/05

Crime On Hwy 80 Gets Political

By Mari Payton

Highway 80 in Jackson is home to prostitutes, thieves, and drug dealers and business leaders have had enough.

Now the area is attracting heated debate and political agendas.

Once known for it's thriving business community, Highway 80 in Jackson is now struggling to keep commerce alive.

Fighting crime and preventing businesses from leaving the area is a major issue in Jackson's mayoral race.

Nina Holbrook, the Executive Director of the MetroCenter Area Coalition said, "What would get my vote is first of all taking care of the code violations we have out here. There are numbers of code violations. If we could get those cleaned up it would help clean up Highway 80 and focus on the drugs and prostitution."

Joe Schmelzer's business, Equipment Inc. has been on Highway 80 since 1963. "We've not seen anything done here in the last several years, we've been complaining about it for the past 5 years."

Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson said improvements are visible. "We've also done things throughout the corridor in terms of economic development. New street lighting from Ellis Avenue to Metrocenter, extending our urban renewal center out to Highway 80."

Johnson said efforts to fight prostitution were successful. "We had an operation called Operation Cupid between February 8th through February 2th. We made 51 arrests in that operation."

Frank Melton, a Democratic candidate running against Johnson said, "And that same 51 people are right back out on the street tonight so what good does that do?"

Melton said there needs to be more action and less talk. "Harvey's had a plan for the inner city...the mayor is a great planner, but he can't implement."

Johnson said, "I would do my homework before I accused someone of not doing their job. I would make sure I had the facts together."

Business leaders said it's not about politics, but about the people who live and work there.

Holbrook said, "We just need somebody, whoever becomes mayor to pay attention to where we are and what we are doing out here."

The primary election is set for Tuesday, May 3rd. The general election is on June 7th..

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