Local leaders begin to formulate crime plan

Published 1:06 am Saturday, April 1, 2017


NATCHEZ — In light of a recent string of robberies and burglaries, city and county government and law enforcement leaders met Friday to begin formulating a plan for how to protect local businesses from crime.

Natchez Police Chief Daniel White and Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said they are confident they have captured the man responsible for the recent crimes.

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Jeffrey Wayne Clark, 51, 18 Prince Addition Road, has been charged for the Feb. 28 armed robbery of Kaiser’s Mobil Mart on U.S. 61 North, the March 2 robbery of Kaiser’s Food and Fuel on U.S. 61 South, the March 28 robbery of Sprint Mart on Seargent S. Prentiss Drive and the March 20 burglaries of Davidson’s Package Store and Panda Buffet.

A total of five convenience stores have been robbed and two businesses burglarized since Feb. 28.

Christopher Wimberly, 35, 1018 Martins Lane, was arrested and charged for the March 2 robbery of the Morgantown Exxon.

Police say they believe Clark is responsible for the rest of the robberies and burglaries. The only reported convenience store robbery he has not been charged in connection with is the March 7 robbery of the Sprint Mart on Wood Avenue. Police have said they are confident he is responsible for that robbery, but do not have sufficient evidence to charge him.

“It was him,” Patten said at Friday’s meeting. “Notice you haven’t had a robbery since he was arrested (March 21 for burglary).”

Patten and White met with Mayor Darryl Grennell, Adams County Supervisor Mike Lazarus, Ward 2 Alderman Billie Joe Frazier, City Planner Riccardo Giani and District Attorney Ronnie Harper at a meeting Grennell called to discuss crime.

Grennell said he called the meeting so leaders could discuss tactics for deterring crimes and convenience stores and other businesses.

Grennell specifically ask the law enforcement officials what convenience stores owners could do to help police and prevent crime.

Officials made several suggestions, including increased lighting, minimizing access points to the property, properly screening employees, having at least two clerks on duty and upgrading security camera equipment.

Patten said having modern, quality security camera can be crucial for solving crimes.

Harper said having grainy security footage of a crime can often be more harmful to a case than helpful. He said defense attorneys have successfully argued that suspects do not look like suspects captured on camera, and grainy footage has not been good enough to prove otherwise.

Patten also said it is important that juries convict those guilty of robberies and judges send them to prison to set an example and dissuade future potential criminals.

The key to that, Harper said, is good police work and solid evidence.

“Even if you know he did it, you’re not going to convict him if you don’t have the evidence,” Harper said.

Giani made a presentation to the officials Friday that included the possibility of utilizing the Adams County Soil and Water Conservation’s Geographical Information System (GIS) to aid in mapping crimes, target areas, certain types of businesses and other uses.

Giani also mapped out all the convenience stores in Adams County and took photos of the stores during daylight and nighttime to analyze potential strengths and weaknesses for deterring crime at the locations.

Common themes included, Giani said, poor lighting, exposed concrete for maximum accessibility, multiple open access points, window signage blocking visibility and other issues.

Giani suggested store owners limit the amount of cash on hand at stores, make infrequent trips to the bank, keep small bills rather than large ones, install an entrance buzzer or bell, strengthen store policies about key access and other precautions.

Officials also discussed the fact that several stores have the capability of locking doors and conducting transactions via drop boxes that open on the inside and outside of the stores.

Frazier, who is chair of the city’s police committee, also suggested store owners make sure employees are trained on how to react during a robbery.

Patten said clerks who were working during the recent robberies acted appropriately by submitting to the suspect’s demands and not endangering themselves by putting up a fight.

Local government and law enforcement officials are expected to meet again next week with store owners to address concerns they have and discussed further ways to prevent crime.