Mississippi Mayor Offers To Pay Criminals to Leave City

Clarksdale, Mississippi Mayor Chuck Espy made an interesting proposal during a press conference on May 20: offering up to $10,000 for criminals to move out of his town. Espy said he would use his own money to help relocate people away from Clarksdale as part of a larger plan to reduce crime.

“If you’re just simply a gang member, a criminal or a drug dealer, move out of this city now,” Espy said, according to WREG. “I will put money on the line to assist those type of people to move out of the city.”

Espy said some benchmarks will be required of anyone who wants to take him up on his offer. “It’s not to say that you just want one criminal to move from one city to the next,” he said. “They just might not have the good opportunities that they need in this city.” Espy did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for further comment. The mayor said that Clarksdale Police Chief Sandra Williams released a corrective action plan six months ago that assessed which changes needed to be made to the department. That included hiring more officers, resources for community policing, and hiring a retired Mississippi Bureau of Investigation agent who looks at felony cases and citizens’ complaints, WREG reported.

The city will also launch a moving assistance program for residents who consistently have brushes with the law and may need a new environment to change. Espy encouraged local businesses and philanthropists to join his moving assistance program.

According to the Clarion Ledger, Espy said he is also focused on helping those who want to stay out of trouble and in Clarksdale. Police will work with a reverend to help those who contact their office get back on the right path.

“We encouraged them to stay in our city and become great citizens,” Reverend John Givins said, according to FOX-13. “We will also be putting an etiquette class in place for these people. And we have skill sets to prepare them for jobs coming to the city of Clarksdale.”

The city of 18,000 people saw at least 12 homicides in 2018, up from just six two years prior. The homicide increase followed a staff shortage at the police department as well as insubordination and alleged corruption, according to Mississippi Today.

Williams, the department’s first Black woman chief, told Mississippi Today in November that Clarksdale Police lost at least 12 officers. On November 19, 2018, she announced that the department was looking to hire more officers. She also proposed several solutions to fix issues relating to insubordination, a lack of discipline, and training. The police chief told WREG that crime is down in Clarksdale in 2019. The city has only experienced one homicide this year.

“We want everyone in the city of Clarksdale to live safe, to be safe. We do not want to see a child dead in the streets,” Espy said. “We do not want to see an innocent bystander getting shot.”

Clarksdale is not the first city to test out a program that pays criminals to stay out of trouble. In 2016, Washington, DC contemplated a plan that would pay as many as 200 people who were considered at-risk to commit violent crimes an annual stipend to stay out of trouble. The proposal eventually died without being funded by Mayor Muriel Bowser and DC Council, NBC Washington reported.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She was a breaking news reporter for Newsweek and previously worked at International Business Times UK, where she covered breaking news and politics. She has also published work with GlobalPost, IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.