Watch for crime

Published 12:27 am Thursday, January 31, 2008

NATCHEZ — Right now the Neighborhood Watch signs that sporadically dot downtown’s streets are little more than reminders of the past.

Downtown has no Neighborhood Watch program.

Sissy Blackwood plans to change that.

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When Blackwood’s neighbor, a South Pearl Street resident, was recently robbed in front of his home, Blackwood decided she had enough.

“People in this area are very concerned,” she said. “Women are afraid to take their garbage out at night.”

Blackwood said the recent rash of break-ins and robberies has inspired her and her neighbors to start a Neighborhood Watch program.

“Something needs to be done,” she said. “We as residents need to get involved and take back our community.”

Blackwood said she cannot remember a time when crime was as prevalent in downtown Natchez as it is right now.

“I want to take my neighborhood back,” she said.

After contacting other downtown homeowners, Blackwood said she feels confident she has the support needed to start a successful watch program.

“Several people have expressed interest in being captains,” she said. “People in this area are more than ready to start. They are hyped up.”

Since November, when many of the break-ins began, Blackwood said she has noticed a sharp drop in the amount of people out after dark.

“My friends won’t walk their dogs late in the evening,” she said. “And I want to be able to sit on my porch and feel safe.”

Police Chief Mike Mullins said when a community gets involved in a program like Neighborhood Watch it bolsters the department’s ability to operate efficiently in the area.

“We need the public’s help,” he said.

Mullins said many of the arrests that the police department makes come from tips generated by the public.

And while Mullins said he is glad to hear the community is interested in crime prevention, he also warned members of the watch program to remain vigilant.

Mullins said while it is common for citizens to get active when crime goes up, when crime goes down they often become complacent and the programs disband.

Mullins said he could not remember the last time there was a Neighborhood Watch program downtown.

Blackwood said she plans to start a petition within her neighborhood to further rally support for the program and conduct the first meeting possibly as soon as next week.

“We are not going to let a bunch of thugs change the way we live,” she said.