Fighting crime in Natchez no joke to city

Published 12:45 am Friday, November 16, 2007

How many politicians does it take to screw in a light bulb?

The answer?

It depends on how many committees they form to look into the methodology of changing a light bulb.

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If this joke has caught you laughing or at least nodding your head in agreement, then answer this question?

Jackson or Natchez — in which would you choose to live?

Now that is not a joke question. In fact, it is a question that points out a fallacy in the first joke.

Listen to conversations throughout Natchez or attend public meetings. When the issue of crime is discussed, it doesn’t take long for someone to compare Natchez to Jackson.

Whether it is in a board of aldermen meeting or the coffee shop downtown, many comments seem to suggest that Natchez may be spiraling into a situation similar to Jackson.

With the news of two murders in one month, the fears of residents are rising.

At first glance, it might be an unfair comparison. The two cities are very different.

Jackson is the most populous city in Mississippi, inhabited by more than 180,000 people. Natchez has a population a tenth of Jackson’s.

In Natchez there have been three murders so far this year. As of September, Jackson has had 36 murders. At that rate, Jackson may eclipse its 1994 record of 57 murders in a year.

Those are glaring statistics that begin to show that while Natchez may be perceived as having a crime problem, it pales in comparison to the level of crime that Jackson is currently experiencing.

That said, the most glaring difference between the two Mississippi cities may be how these two cities have decided to address the issue — change the light bulb, if you will.

Since his inauguration, Jackson mayor Frank Melton has decided to take a hands-on approach to crime in the capital city.

To the delight of many citizens, he has led drug sweeps and crime raids throughout the city.

Working to keep his promise to take care of crime in his first 90 days in office, Melton continued to take a one-man approach to crime.

Despite his efforts to sledgehammer the problem into oblivion, two years have passed and the crime in Jackson has not abated. In fact, it has worsened since he took office.

The one-man, Rambo approach to crime isn’t working.

Three weeks ago, when mayor Phillip West and Natchez aldermen, discussed the issue, they decided to take a different approach to crime.

Instead of taking a one-man approach to the problem, they decided to get everyone involved.

Recognizing that crime is a very complicated problem, they decided to work together to develop a strategy for addressing the issue.

They invited department heads, school officials and city and county law enforcement to discuss the issue.

Conversation ranged from drugs and guns to schools and well-lit streets.

Realizing that they needed to get the public’s input on the subject, the mayor, aldermen and law enforcement met with city residents at Prince Street Daycare.

Leaders then met again Wednesday afternoon to begin to develop real strategies to addressing the city’s crime.

City crews have already identified streets that need better lighting and neighborhoods that need to be cleaned of debris and trash.

Police and deputies are having open and honest discussion with leaders about the number of patrol officers needed in the city and how current salaries are affecting the city’s ability to attract and keep officers.

Aldermen are ready to invite churches, youth court official and other community leaders to the table.

Instead of taking the one man approach, city leaders have decided to invite the community to help fight the crime problem.

The city is showing that while it may just take one person to change a light bulb, it takes a whole community to address the crime issue.

Ben Hillyer is the web editor of the Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at