City murder rate for 2018 significantly higher than nation

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, December 19, 2018


NATCHEZ — Saturday’s murder of an 18-year-old man as he sat in his vehicle near 617 E. Stiers Lane was the city’s 11th murder of the year, Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong said.

Adams County, outside of the Natchez city limits, has had two murders this year, said Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten, despite an earlier report of three murders in the county. One fatal shooting was later ruled to be accidental, officials said.

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If a Monday night fatal shooting on West Stiers Lane in Natchez is determined to be a murder, it will be the city’s 12th murder this year.

In 2017, Natchez had two murders, Armstrong said, and Adams County had three murders.

Suspects have been arrested and charged in both of Adams County’s murders this year, Patten said.Of the city’s 11 murders this year, five of the cases remain open, meaning a suspect has not yet been charged, Armstrong said, and investigators are actively pursuing leads.

Armstrong said the United States had 17,250 murders in 2017 with a 61-percent solve rate and that Mississippi’s unsolved rate is currently 18.7 percent.

During his eight years as police chief in Vicksburg, Armstrong said he had a 100-percent solve rate for murders, but Natchez is facing unique challenges.

Most of the city’s murders this year, Armstrong said, occurred in the same areas of town involving rival youth gangs in different neighborhoods.

“There are challenges we are dealing with now,” Armstrong said. “One being the victims and suspects being younger.”

The average age of the victims, Armstrong said, is 25.

Armstrong said most of the cases are believed to have been retaliatory for past actions and for whatever reasons some victims and witnesses do not cooperate with law enforcement to help solve the crime.

“In some cases, even with the victim, it is difficult to get them to work with police,” Armstrong said. “You would think the victim would want to work with law enforcement to bring the suspect to justice.”

Armstrong said he believes the lack of cooperation of victims with law enforcement comes down to “street justice.”

“They don’t want us to know who did it because of what they are planning to do to them themselves,” Armstrong said.

Parents and family members should be more involved in young people’s lives, Armstrong said, adding that the young suspects and victims mostly live with parents or other family members who should know if the youths have guns or are involved in violent activity.

Natchez police have upped patrols in high crime areas, Armstrong said, but the city still patrols the rest of the city, too. And, he said, the city works with federal agencies such as Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms when possible because offenders are more likely to serve the full length of sentences under federal sentencing.

“More community involvement is needed,” Armstrong said, adding that when people see a crime or have information on a crime they need to be willing to work with law enforcement. “It (the victim) may not be you this time, but you may be next.”