Officials: City, county working together to stop violence

Published 12:15 am Thursday, December 20, 2018


NATCHEZ — Natchez and Adams County are working together to stop the violence that has plagued the city and county and resulted in 14 murders in the past year, officials said in a joint press conference Wednesday afternoon at Natchez City Hall.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell scheduled the press conference, he said, to assure the community that the city and county are working together.

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“With the crime issues that have been occurring here in our entire community,” Grennell said. “… we the city and the county, the police department, the sheriff’s department, we have been on top of this from the very beginning, working together both the city and the county in order to solve the crimes that have occurred and also to work diligently to curtail and prevent any future crimes or homicides to occur.”

Grennell said both the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen and the Adams County Board of Supervisors have told Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong and Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten that they will support them.

“We will do any and everything in our power to help them in order to prevent further crimes from occurring,” Grennell said, “and also to help them solve these cases if that means additional equipment, contact of other authorities that need to come in and to help them if they need it. Also, we gave the police chief the charge to go on and add additional cameras throughout this city and county area so that we can use that technology to help them in solving future cases.”

The city recently installed 13 surveillance cameras in high crime areas through Project NOLA, which offers the cameras at a discount rate. The plan is to add another 32 cameras throughout the city.

Grennell also encouraged private citizens and business owners to consider installing personal cameras on their properties to help curtail crime.

Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong said Natchez is a great place to live and visit and despite recent violent crimes, the city is not all bad.

“This past week, we had nearly 100 (police) chiefs from across the state (at a Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police convention in Natchez) and every last one of them had good things to say about our community,” Armstrong said. “But we do have some issues that we’re dealing with, and its going to take the community to help solve those situations, mainly the community in which these individuals reside, these young boys between the ages of about 15 or 16 to about 25, they’re living with someone. Someone knows exactly what’s going on with them, so we’re calling on that segment of this community to step up to the plate and take ownership of their loved ones. What we’re having here is some challenges in terms of getting those individuals involved that don’t want to communicate with us.”

Armstrong said he encourages family members and relatives to report potential crimes before they occur and to report crimes they may witness.

“In any crime, in order for police to quickly bring resolution to those incidences, it takes eyewitnesses, or forensic evidence, to determine who did what,” Armstrong said. “When there is very little to no forensic evidence, then we need eyewitnesses to come forward and tell us what has happened.”

Armstrong said many victims are not forthcoming with evidence to bring charges against perpetrators.

“It slows the process down tremendously,” Armstrong said, “but what I can tell you is we have a lot of things in the works right now some of which are involving outside agencies, some of which are involving forensic evidence, from our crime lab which is a very slow process as all of you know, so, therefore, it takes longer, but we’re going to continue to stay the course to make sure that those persons that commit those crimes will be brought to justice.”

Patten also challenged family members and relatives to be forthcoming reporting crimes and information through crime stoppers or other means, such as social media.

Law enforcement, Patten said, see the videos rival neighborhood groups post on social media, and they are working to decipher and identify people in those videos.

Patten said law enforcement members know people in those videos have information they could share about potential crimes or recent crimes.

“We’ve buried a lot of people this year,” Patten said, “and this blood feud just seems to keep going on and on, and I want everyone to know that we see your videos. We see your mamas. We see your cousins. We see your grandmamas in all these videos throwing all those gang signs. I’ve approached some of you personally to let you know whether your child is next on the list or not.”

Patten said it is not just up to law enforcement to protect their loved ones, but it is also up to the family members to protect them.

“To those family members who think I’m playing,” Patten said, “go talk to some of these grieving mothers who have lost a child recently. Listen to the pain in their voice when you hear them speak. That’s a pain we hear way too often, but we’re not going to let it continue.”

Patten said law enforcement would identify people in the videos and start knocking on doors.

“I promise you we’re going to see you soon,” Patten said. “Very soon. But I want for the citizens to know that from here on out we’re going to have the extra manpower out and our teams have worked tirelessly to get together to make sure the citizens are safe in the community.”

Patten said no amount of information is too small to report.

“Even if it is just helping us get a nickname and putting it with a real name,” Patten said. “Any information you have, we would love to have it. There are all kinds of ways to get it out. We have Crime stoppers out there, messages through Facebook, cellphones. I don’t care how you get the information to us; just get it to us. We need to stand up and take ownership of our community, and I ain’t just saying certain groups, I’m saying everybody needs to take ownership and show these few individuals that we’re not going to let Natchez be known for the acts that a small few are doing.”

Adams County District 4 Supervisor Ricky Gray, who was at the press conference representing the county, said he believes the sheriff and police department working together will help alleviate the crime problem.

“I hate to say this,” Gray said, “but I feel like until we address some of the poverty in this community, then we’re going to continue to have crime, but after meeting with the sheriff, the police, the mayor and alderman … I think that the plan that the chief and the sheriff have is a really good plan, and it really will help to alleviate this problem.”

Natchez Ward 2 Alderman Billie Joe Frazier, who chairs the city’s police committee, said even though a lot of the crimes occur in certain areas of town, the problem is not just specific to those areas.

“My biggest concern is many of these incidences took place in my ward,” Frazier said, “but not all of them. Just because they took place on the north side of town, let me say this, crime affects everyone. Not just one particular group of people. You might say, ‘Oh it happened over there on West Stiers Lane.’ Before you know it, it might happen down south, so what we’re asking is we’re asking everyone here for participation to help in solving these crimes and crime prevention which is very important.”

To report tips about crimes in the area, Crime Stoppers can be reached at 601-442-5000.