Crime talks continue

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 15, 2007

NATCHEZ — City, law enforcement and school district officials agreed it would take more than policing to address crime in Natchez.

Wednesday night, at the second such meeting, Alderman Theodore “Bubber” West had each person present define what they thought the group’s mission should be.

Those attending said they wanted to cut crime, encourage residents to take a role in crime prevention and make people feel safe.

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“Now, how do we get to that point?” West asked.

Some suggested increasing the number of police officers hired, increasing officer pay and becoming more involved in the community.

Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said she would like to hire more officers.

Higher officer pay would keep officers in Natchez rather than leaving for higher paying jobs elsewhere, Police Chief Mike Mullins said.

Public Works Director Eric Smith pointed out areas that needed streetlights or needed branches cut that are blocking lights.

West asked Smith and police officers to continue to suggest areas that needed to be lit.

Neighborhood Watch programs were also discussed. Mullins suggested each neighborhood have a “kickoff,” a sort of block party, to let people know the problem was being addressed and how they could help.

Mullins said the issues were social, and the group had to look deeper for the underlying problems.

Mathis also suggested the schools implement a parenting class for those students who were parents themselves. Starting early would prevent problems down the road, she said.

Some voiced the opinion lack of parental involvement and discipline might be part of the problem.

All too often, society blames the public schools for not disciplining children, said Wayne Barnett, director of operations for the Natchez-Adams School District.

“We’re supposed to do it all,” he said. “And if we have time, we might get to reading, writing and arithmetic. Society has asked schools to take on all the other responsibilities.”

Barnett suggested other community leaders be at the table, including PTA leaders and youth court judges.

Other suggestions were representatives from the department of human services, AJFC and mental health representatives.

Community Development Director Darlene Jones said she would invite those to participate at the next meeting, Nov. 28.