CLARKSDALE, MS (abc24.com) — Murder and arson are crimes you don't expect in a small rural community, but that's exactly what people in Clarksdale, Mississippi are worried about. The town is about 80 miles southwest of Memphis.
Residents say the violence is out of control but the mayor disagrees. Mayor Henry Espy says police, the sheriff's department, fire marshals and the FBI have been working together to put the people responsible for the arsons and recent murder behind bars.
“It's getting worse in Clarksdale and being so small the crime rate is going up,” said a resident Brad Fair.
Fair was born and raised in Clarksdale. It's home to about 18,000 people and only 50 police officers are there to keep the peace. Fair says now his hometown has been turned upside down and he wants the mayor to step up.
"He needs to a better job addressing the citizens of Clarksdale, especially if he wants to serve them,” he said.
The mayor says he has local, state and federal agencies helping to clean up his town, but they still need more help.
"The people have to help the police department. We need other eyes and ears to help the community. The police department and the sheriff's department can only do so much," said the Clarksdale Mayor Henry Espy.
This past week, police officers say 24-year old Charlina Miller was shot in the head and her body was dumped under a bridge. Miller's mother, Vera, says her daughter didn't have any enemies. She says she sees violence everywhere and never thought her family would fall victim to it.
"This is not an easy thing to lose a child. I just miss her. I'll never forget her as a person," said Vera Miller.
The last few months, there were 50 arsons, mostly in vacant homes. Two weeks ago a drive by shooting at an apartment complex. It almost killed a woman. As authorities work to keep the streets safe people turn to their faith for comfort.
"I’ve been praying a lot. My friends have been praying for me and thanking the Lord for taking care of me and my family," said Miller.
Investigators say they have one person of interest in custody in connection to Miller's murder. They say two more people may be involved. Cops have also arrested a man that's responsible for some of the arsons. The mayor says five years ago there would be more than 16 homicides a year and now that's gone down to about four homicides a year.