MISSISSIPPI (WDAM) - Gun violence and gun-related crimes are no surprise for cities and counties across the state of Mississippi.
Jackson has been ranked in the top 10 cities in the nation for its murder rate, and the new Federal Bureau of Investigation, Special Agent in Charge for Mississippi, Christopher Freeze is looking to change that.
"Violent crime is a problem throughout the entire state of Mississippi, and we need to look at different programs and options in a way to combat that crime," Freeze said. "Something has to be put in place that addresses the criminal who wants to snub his or her nose, and fingers at the law enforcement and are carrying weapons when they know they shouldn't."
Freeze, who recently served as a section chief of the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force in the Counterterrorism Division at FBI Headquarters, has been with the bureau since 1996.
He said during his time spent in Richmond, Virginia, he got a chance to take part in a project to help curb gun crimes, known as "Project Exile."
"Project Exile was founded and based on the concept that if you're a convicted felon, caught in commission of a crime, with a weapon, there's a five-year automatic sentence to federal prison," Freeze said.
In a short amount of time, the crime rate took a hit, and the murder rate in Richmond was cut in half.
"Crime rates fell dramatically in the Richmond area, and it was replicated thought the country in a number of different cities," Freeze said.
He said he wants to bring the same concept to Mississippi and wants the convicted felons to get the message.
"If you're not carrying the gun because you know that if you're convicted or a convicted felon and picked up with a gun and you know it's a five-year sentence, evidence has shown you're no longer going to carry the gun, and if you're no longer carrying the weapon you're not pulling it out in the heat of the moment and shooting somebody," Freeze said.
Freeze said he and his team are looking at the same framework and aspects of Project Exile to see if it is viable for Mississippi.
"Right now, it's in the beginning phases, I've talked to some of our partners in the Jackson area and some of our state partners to kind of hear them out and see if they think it would be viable," Freeze said. "The U.S. Attorney's Office would be a big part of that, so certainly their willingness and ability to be a partner in that regard will be something we are discussing and will further discuss with them."
Freeze added that other things have been used and have been effective in various locations, some such as Operation Ceasefire and other strategic operations to target gun crimes. He added putting a plan and operation like that in place would curb the numbers.
"I'm convinced that the violence will subside, at least to the point where it's something that will be more manageable," he said.