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Police ticket and tow checkpoint program targets the poor, advocacy group charges

The Mississippi Poor People’s Campaign claims that Jackson’s Ticket, Arrest and Tow initiative criminalizes poverty.

A new initiative launched in 2022 by Jackson, Mississippi police is being criticized for disproportionately impacting poor people.

The Mississippi Clarion-Ledger is reporting that the Mississippi Poor People’s Campaign claims that Jackson’s Ticket, Arrest and Tow program is criminalizing poverty.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba supports the city’s Ticket, Arrest and Tow initiative, but he’s walked back some previous statements about cars being towed and people being arrested for the lack of documentation. (Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

The program sets up checkpoints where drivers in Jackson must show a valid driver’s license, registration and insurance or they are subject to arrest and having their vehicle impounded.

“We’ve heard the cries of mothers who have pushed for a stronger presence of the Jackson Police Department in the city of Jackson,” Danyelle Holmes, of The Poor People’s Campaign, said at a press conference Monday for Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba. “But we also understand that criminalizing poverty is not the answer that we need here in the city of Jackson.”

Supporters of Ticket, Arrest and Tow say the program is helping authorities get illegal guns off the street via vehicle checks. However, Holmes says it is instead negatively impacting the same people the Jackson Police Department says it’s trying to protect. According to the report, Jackson’s 153 homicides in 2021 made the city rank as the highest in the nation per capita. 

“Our goal is to always lift people from the bottom and not to continue to keep them at the bottom,” said Holmes. “And we know that having these checkpoints disproportionately impacts those important communities who will be left at the bottom paying … fees for no license and no insurance.”

She and the Mississippi Poor People’s Campaign are not the only ones expressing displeasure. A class-action lawsuit (Gibbs et al. v. City of Jackson, Mississippi, et al.) has been filed to declare the initiative unconstitutional.

“Just as the police cannot walk into every home to search for evidence of a crime or stop and delay every citizen walking down the street to pat them down for drugs or illegal weapons or check their drivers [sic] licenses to see if they are wanted for a crime, they cannot do the same with every motorist on the public roads,” the complaint reads, according to ClassAction.org. “If they could, they might make more arrests for criminal activity, but our security in our homes and our freedom to go about our business in public would be very restricted.”

Mayor Lumumba supports Ticket, Arrest and Tow, but he has walked back some previous statements made about cars being towed and people being arrested for the lack of documentation, disclosing they are more likely to be given a citation. “We do not want to major in the minor,” he said last month.

Still, the Poor People’s Campaign, ACLU and others have maintained that the checkpoints are illegal.

“Citizens in these areas who have done nothing wrong are routinely stopped and delayed as they go about their business because the City believes this is an effective method of crime control. But it is not,” the class action suit reads.

“More importantly, these wholesale stops of citizens in the name of crime control, without any reason to believe they have committed crimes, is a violation of their rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures,” it contends. “This class action is brought to vindicate their rights and to seek a court order prohibiting the City from implementing a scheme of unconstitutional roadblocks.”

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