JACKSON — When Ken Crotwell owned the Iron Horse Grill in downtown Jackson, his biggest competition wasn’t other restaurants. It was security.
“When I was downtown, I always believed that security was my biggest competition. It wasn’t the other restaurants. It was making customers feel safe to come out and dine,” said Crotwell, general manager for Lager’s World Grill on Ridgewood Road in Jackson.
After a second fire permanently shut down the Iron Horse Grill, Crotwell said there were at least 22 break-ins and “anything that wasn’t burned was stolen.”
“Crime definitely affects business, which hurts sales, and in turn, hurts Jackson’s tax base,” he said. “If people don’t feel safe they’re not going to go out. That is especially true with the restaurant business.”
Lager’s World Grill is one of 30 restaurants participating in this year’s “Take A Tasty Bite Out of Crime,” a fund-raising event sponsored by the Jackson chapter of the Mississippi Restaurant Association and the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
“Tasty Bite” will be held June 4th at Highland Village in Jackson, on the night before Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr., faces challenger C. Daryl Neely, Ward 5 city councilman and a Republican, in the June 5 general election, in which crime has been a hotly debated issue.
Proceeds from the fund-raising event will go toward equipment for the reserve units of the Jackson Police Department and the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department.
“Crime definitely affects business in Jackson,” said Jim Frier, executive director of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. “Neighborhood associations are spending sizable amounts of money for private patrols. I think Fondren Renaissance is spending up to $150,000 a year for patrols with Wackenhut. With ‘Tasty Bite,’ we’re allocating funds from the event toward enhancement needs of the police reserves of the Jackson Police Department so that we can put more people on patrol. Hinds County has done that beautifully by creating a very strong viable and well-trained reserve component. Jackson used to have one. We’re trying to get that established again because the JPD is having great difficulty recruiting full time police officers.”
Following tradition from years past, “Tasty Bite” will have a Caribbean theme with live performances by Reggae bands, One Drop and The Vamps. Last year’s event raised more than $20,000.
“Many reservists are businessmen from all walks of life who volunteer and spend their own money to perform that function,” Frier said. “We want to augment that.”
Nick Clark, owner of Nick Clark Printing in Jackson and former commander of the Hinds County Sheriff’s Reserve, continues to volunteer in the reserves on a narcotics unit, heading up a street crimes task force.
“A reservist does everything a full-time officer with the force does. He just doesn’t get a paycheck,” Clark said. “Reservists make thousands of arrests every year.”
Captain Henry Glaze, assistant executive director of the Baptist Children’s Village and commander of the Hinds County Sheriff’s Reserves, said 70 volunteers are in the county reserves — 60 are state-certified officers.
“The county is giving us 20 handheld units to match the new digital radio system that’s being installed for the sheriff’s department,” Glaze said. “We’ve got to have 50 more. They’re very expensive but they’re our lifelines. It’s our biggest need and costs between $100,000 and $160,000.”
Lt. Robert Graham, JPD spokesman, said 40 members are state-certified reservists and part-time police officers.
“We used to have a much stronger force, with 110 members,” Graham said. “City reservists only get to use vehicles for special assignments. They mostly run patrols of neighborhoods and business areas and occasional special needs. They have the same authority and power as the full-time police. The only things we supply are uniforms and weapons and things like that.”
Graham insisted that interest in the city reserves hasn’t waned.
“It’s just that priorities have changed,” he said. “People move away, get other jobs, or can’t keep up the commitment to fulfill 16 hours a month of duty.”
“It’s one of the most fun events for all restaurateurs to do each year, and it’s definitely going for a worthwhile cause in helping to reestablish the JPD Reserves and for the ongoing success of the Hinds County Sheriff’s Reserve,” he said. “This is our fifth year, and it all started through the hard work of the restaurant association, especially Jeff Good of Bravo. This was his baby.”
“Tasty Bite” has proven to be one of the city’s best parties, Frier said.
“It brings out a wide spectrum of the city,” he said. “You’ve got quality restaurants serving their fare, and the open bars and the music just tops it off. There are also some pretty good door prizes. I think being on election eve, this one could be real interesting.”
Tickets to “Take A Tasty Bite Out of Crime” are $60 and available through the Metropolitan Crime Commission. Tickets and donations are 100% tax deductible. For more information, call (601) 968-9999.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at email@example.com or (601) 853-3967.