Residents gather to share concerns about crime
NATCHEZ — After a shooting claimed the life of a man on Beaumont Street two weeks ago, residents of Woodlawn were left wondering what they could do to prevent another tragedy in their neighborhood.
Approximately 15 Woodlawn Neighborhood Watch group members met with Natchez Police Chief Danny White, Ward 2 Alderman Ricky Gray and other law enforcement officials Wednesday evening at Prince Street Day Care.
The residents voiced concerns about the Jan. 2 shooting, during which McKinley Brady, 34, reportedly shot and killed Kendrick Tolbert 28, on Beaumont Street.
“What transpired on Beaumont, it was devastating,” Watch group member Shelia Freeman said.
Brady was arrested in Baton Rouge last week and charged earlier this week with murder after reportedly confessing to the crime.
The shooting left the neighborhood rattled, and the group questioned White about what they could do to prevent crime in their neighborhood.
The group’s main concern is ridding their neighborhood of drug activity and loitering of people who do not live in the area, all of which they say can lead to violence.
“That could have been anybody’s child laying out there,” Watch group member Joe Lee Good said. “The guy who did the shooting, his life is gone now, too.”
White told the group the police department has beefed up patrol, putting officers on foot patrol and riding in the neighborhood himself late at night.
NPD only has one officer for every beat, or patrol territory, in the city per shift. White said there are six beats in the city, and one officer works that area for his or her 12-hour shift.
That means if an officer is called to assist another on a call, an area is left uncovered for however long that call lasts.
“We just don’t have enough (officers) to do two officers per beat,” White said. “We just don’t have it.”
Turnover at NPD has been a problem that has plagued the department for years. Officers often leave the department to take higher-paying law enforcement jobs at the Adams County Sheriff’s Office or across the river in Louisiana.
White said he is losing two officers who are taking higher-paying jobs at the end of this month.
Concerns about a short-staffed police department were issues the group had hoped to bring to Mayor Butch Brown, who was invited to the Watch meeting but could not attend.
Brown said Wednesday evening he had a meeting with potential developers that conflicted with the Neighborhood Watch meeting. Brown added he, too, is concerned about the recent shooting.
“That is why when something like that happens, we put all of our resources on it to catch them, and those involved will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” he said.
Reacting to crime is simply not enough, the group agreed. It will take residents working together with police to prevent crime, Good said.
A lack of cooperation from even victims of crimes is a problem police run into regularly, White said.
“We have people who get shot, and they won’t even tell us who shot them,” he said.
That is the “nature of the streets,” Prince Street Day Care owner Barbara Crenshaw said.
“That’s the street mentality,” she said. “They won’t tell on each other (because) they’re afraid to. They’re afraid for their lives.”
Crenshaw said she is afraid the violence in the area of Beaumont and other streets may endanger the lives of her students.
After the Beaumont Street shooting, which happened at approximately 10 a.m., Brady reportedly ran armed past her day care, where two of his own children attend, to a getaway car.
Crenshaw said the teachers have portable radios in the classrooms to communicate with each other, but asked if the department could provide training for her employees in the event an active shooter enters the building.
White said providing that training would be no problem.
Dilapidated and abandoned houses in the Woodlawn area provide a haven for drug activity and it is a problem the group agreed has plagued their streets for years.
Violence in neighborhoods is a side effect of a drug problem that plagues the community, Gray said. Eliminating the source of drugs, Gray said, will help end the violence.
It is violence that Jonathan and Renza Grennell say they are afraid will claim the life of an innocent child caught in the crossfire.
“A bullet does not know where it is going,” Renza said. “And the children are scared at night.”
Many of the residents said they felt the problems in their neighborhoods are viewed as less important because of the “side of town” they live on.
“We’re just tired of stuff happening in our neighborhood, and it’s not important,” Freeman said.