Citizen’s arrest, citizen’s arrest!

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gomer Pyle would be proud of the Miss-Lou.

It seems our community has gotten serious about stopping crime, and, when necessary, civilians have taken bad-guy-chasing into their own hands.

No one has shouted “citizen’s arrest, citizen’s arrest” like good-old Gomer quite yet, but the quick thinking of at least three local residents has led to three arrests in a month’s time.

Pearl Street resident David Haigh started things off in early January when he bear-hugged an intruder he found in his house.

Haigh walked downstairs, saw the stranger and spoke to the man, who then tried to run from the house. But Haigh didn’t let him get away that easily.

The homeowner ran after the man, grabbed him and dragged him next door, where Haigh asked a neighbor to call 911.

He kept his arms around the man until police arrived.

The civilian police work continued last week when a Natchez man didn’t take kindly to being robbed at a Vidalia ATM.

He was retrieving money when a man with a knife walked up and demanded cash. He handed over $20, and explained that he didn’t have any more money, hence the trip to the ATM.

The suspect ran away; the victim called police, but the story only gets better from there.

The crime victim got in his car and started following the man who had robbed him.

The robber noticed his new tail, stripped off his jacket and hood and ran across the street to McDonald’s. He ordered a cup of coffee and attempted to blend in.

It didn’t work.

And Saturday, it happened again.

A Natchez man robbed another man in a shopping center parking lot. He showed a .22-caliber pistol and removed his victim’s wallet from the man’s pocket.

The suspect ran, jumped in a car and fled.

An eyewitness to the whole event called police and proceeded to follow the getaway car downtown and watch the suspect get out on Main Street.

Police met the criminal there and made an arrest.

Thankfully, all three men involved in catching their suspects did so safely and with clear heads.

Police have expressed gratitude in all three cases.

But civilian loyalties don’t end with police work around here.

Monday night, two off-duty nurses left the comfort of their homes, walked into a busy highway and assisted the victim of an 18-wheeler wreck.

The nurses, along with a dozen other neighbors, kept the injured man still, calm and warm on the edge of U.S. 61 as they waited for the ambulance.

A sheriff’s deputy was on scene, but the general public was clearly in control of the situation.

It’s comforting, really, to know that the people around you are not only willing to help but are smart, capable and brave.

Alert actions like those in the past month can, bite by small bite, take a chunk out of local crime and tragedy. Law enforcement officers have long said that groups such as Neighborhood Watch and even curious senior citizens who are home most of the day can reduce the crime rate.

Of course, officers are the ones with the training and the guns, so it’s best to leave the dirty work to them.

Even Gomer knew it best to merely yell “citizen’s arrest, citizen’s arrest,” and wait for help to come.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocra.com.