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Police department hosts Neighborhood Watch meeting

Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Natchez Police Chief Daniel White, from left, Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, Alderman Tony Fields, Alderman Dan Dillard and Alderman Ricky Gray listen as co-chair of the Woodlawn Neighborhood Watch Valencia Hall talks about loitering problems in her neighborhood. Members of five different Neighborhood Watch groups in the city of Natchez hosted a joint meeting at St. Mary Basilica for the first time to discuss making their neighborhoods safer.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Natchez Police Chief Daniel White, from left, Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, Alderman Tony Fields, Alderman Dan Dillard and Alderman Ricky Gray listen as co-chair of the Woodlawn Neighborhood Watch Valencia Hall talks about loitering problems in her neighborhood. Members of five different Neighborhood Watch groups in the city of Natchez hosted a joint meeting at St. Mary Basilica for the first time to discuss making their neighborhoods safer.

NATCHEZ — Residents from across Natchez gathered Thursday to unite in a single cause — to reduce crime across their neighborhoods.

The Natchez Police Department, Crime Stoppers, city code enforcement officers, members of the board of aldermen and representatives from the five active Neighborhood Watch programs met for what they said was the first of what will become an annual citywide Neighborhood Watch meeting.

Police Chief Danny White said Neighborhood Watch will be a key component in improving the city.

“We have 2,000 citizens for every police officer, so if you have 2,000 more sets of eyes out there compared to one, you see a lot more,” he said.

Neighborhood Watch coordinator Detective Jerry Ford said the goal of the meeting was to let residents of all areas of the city tell each other what was working and to let the police know what issues they were facing.

Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Members of five different Neighborhood Watch groups in the city of Natchez gather for the meeting.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Members of five different Neighborhood Watch groups in the city of Natchez gather for the meeting.

Almost every group complained about drug issues, and residents from the Woodlawn and West Stiers Neighborhood Watch groups pointed to problems of loitering and open drug sale and use in their areas.

White responded the police would send an officer if residents called to complain about the problem.

“When you call us, we are going to send somebody, and they will be walking the area,” White said. “You will be seeing the drug dogs out there.”

Other residents questioned police response time to calls, including one recent call that involved shots fired in the Roselawn area.

White said the city has only one officer for the five beat areas, as well as two supervisors, per shift, but said an officer should be able to get anywhere in the city in seven minutes.

“If you say it takes 10-15 minutes, we are going to pull the tape file and see how long it took,” he said. “Everything is logged from the time you call, to the time of arrival, so we will know how long it took.”

The aldermen present also spoke of how to address problems in the different wards. Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said the city should consider drafting a policy that holds landlords responsible if they continually have problem renters.

Alderman Dan Dillard agreed, saying property owners should be accountable if their renters bring property values down. This could be done by requiring anyone who wants to have rental property apply for a landlord’s permit, he said.

“I know a lot of people in the Roselawn area who have had a house there for years, they have their equity in their house and then they get a (problem) renter next to them and they are stuck,” Dillard said. “If (landlords) violate or have repeat offenders, we could pull their permit.”

Alderman Ricky Gray said the best way to address crime in some areas is to have more lights installed.

“Nobody wants to commit a crime when it’s lit up,” he said.

Alderman Tony Fields said he would continue to advocate for more affordable but nice housing to be built in his district.

“That’s the best way to get the riff-raff out,” he said. “They don’t want to be in a nice area.”

Dillard also praised the Duncan Park Neighborhood Watch group for using not only traditional but social media methods to keep an eye on the neighborhood.

“Duncan Park has a group on Facebook, and they can broadcast if somebody sees something, and you’d be surprised how fast it dings on my phone,” he said. “Everybody has got a cell phone now, and it is a fast response.”

Ford said he and White attend Neighborhood Watch meetings and give out their cell phone numbers at those meetings so residents can contact them directly about concerns.

He also encouraged residents to use the Crime Stoppers line — 601-442-5000 — if they see anything happening.

“We plan on doing what it takes to make Natchez go forward and keep our community safe and make it a livable place for everybody,” he said.