Could crime be curbed with stop-and-frisk policy?

Published 1:05 am Sunday, October 25, 2015

Any American citizen should be able to live their life without inordinate fear of being a victim of crime.

But for residents of Beaumont Street in Natchez, that’s not exactly the case.

Beaumont Street, a relatively small street that runs between Bishop Street and Woodlawn Avenue, has become center stage in Natchez’s fight against the senseless culture of violence that appears to be all too common these days.

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Much of the violence in the area is racially segregated. It’s largely black-on-black violence.

What’s more sad is that such crimes are happening within a mile of the sites of so many of our area’s 1960s civil rights era battles.

Two drive-by shootings recently have occurred in the same month. Last year, two people were murdered on the street.

At the moment, residents live in fear of the small gang of thugs who seem to control the neighborhood.

These vermin need to be driven out of the city like rats.

The violence on Beaumont Street has become so centralized that it drew the attention of the local elected officials and law enforcement officers last week.

The group met together along with a small group of Beaumont Street area residents to discuss how to address the criminal element in the area.

The group appears to have made some progress, at least on paper. They began inching closer to a kind of tough policing that may ultimately be required to clean things up.

It’s sad to say, but law enforcement officers will tell you the biggest drivers of crime in Natchez are drug trafficking and the related crimes that come along with it.

Many years ago a former sheriff told me that he could cut the county’s crime rate in half if he were allowed to just go round up the perennial criminals who regularly kept his deputies busy.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy — or legal. Due process has practically turned into slim-chance-of-conviction these days. Prosecutors blame jurors who have watched too many television crime dramas and who believe all criminal trials will have cut-and-dried, concrete evidence. Few ever do.

The public just blames the whole system, and who can blame the public’s cynicism about the matter?

It’s easy to merely blame the neighbors, “They should call the police more often,” or “They need to help police their own neighborhoods.”

While that’s easy to say, most of those who think that have never lived in fear of retribution.

If you knew the person you were pointing your finger at had the potential — and perhaps reputation — of shooting first and asking questions later, you’d think twice about saying much.

So that leaves the onus on the police to help. These men and women are underpaid in my book, but fortunately they’re willing to put their lives on the line to protect us all.

Although the group of law enforcement leaders came close to calling for it, based on what I read of their meeting, perhaps what’s needed here is a version of New York City’s former “stop and frisk” policy? If you aren’t familiar with this policy, it allowed and encouraged NYPD officers to stop, question and search pedestrians if the officers had a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The practice has been reduced significantly in recent years as a new NYC mayor took office and curbed the policy.

Interestingly, anecdotally at least, the number of violent crimes against police officers appears to be on the increase since the stop-and-frisk policy was curtailed.

Could implementing the policy in Natchez — perhaps starting on Beaumont Street — actually curb the violence? It’s difficult to know for sure.

Certainly one of those murdered in 2014 may have been prevented had a stop-and-frisk been performed on the teenagers.

But without any better ideas, that may be as good an idea as any to stop the ridiculous violence.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or