Natchez mayor hosts radio series on recent crime, violence

Published 12:12 am Friday, December 21, 2018

NATCHEZ — Merit Health Natchez’s emergency room has treated 38 gunshot wounds, five stab wounds and 14 physical assaults this year, the hospital’s CEO said.

Lance Boyd’s comments came during Thursday’s installment of Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell “Mayor’s Radio Talk On Crime.”

Grennell has been hosting the series of radio programs from 5 to 6 p.m. on WMIS/WTYJ 97.7 FM this week to address a series shootings in Natchez and Adams County that have killed 14 people this year.

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The series kicked off Wednesday with Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong and Adams County District 4 Supervisor Ricky Gray as guests

Thursday’s program featured Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten; interim Public Relations Coordinator for the Natchez Adams School District, Ernest “Tony” Fields and Boyd.

The final program will air at 5 today.

“Unfortunately, we’re not on the prevention end as much as we are on the receiving end after things have gone wrong,” Boyd said during Thursday evening’s broadcast. “We see the impact that these incidents have on individuals’ lives.”

Boyd said Merit Health Natchez treats just fewer than 30,000 patients in the emergency room each year.

“That is basically the population of the county,” he said. “In 2017, we treated 28 gunshot wounds, six stab wounds and 14 physical assaults. That number has grown by 36 percent in 2018 when we’ve seen 38 gunshot wounds, five stabs and 14 physical assaults. … We’ve spoken with our ambulance partners with AMR. … Since July of 2018, they’ve responded to 21 gunshot wound calls.”

Boyd said seeing the wounded and lifeless bodies brought in to the hospital drives home the reality of the issue of crime in Adams County home.

“We get to see the terrible side of it,” Boyd said. “Once those victims become a patient, the reality of death, the reality of grief of families — it’s there. This isn’t a video game. This is real life. … To have life snuffed out is a real thing.”

Grennell said even without being in the hospital, the numbers alone are upsetting for him.

“Everyone out there that is listening and heard the numbers … you should be terribly upset just like I am here in the studio,” Grennell said. “Let’s step up, people. Let’s work together. Let’s rid the community of crime. We need neighborhoods working hand in hand.”

Patten said the crime issue in Natchez and Adams County could be attributed to a number of circumstances, including a large amount of poverty, poor education and a large amount of drug activity within the area.

Fields said the school district has done everything in its power to deter students from dropping out of school and instruct them to report acts of violence and bullying within the schools.

Through the “See something, Say something” program, students can report issues anonymously by calling 662-876-0637, Fields said.

“I just want to make a plea, that this has to stop,” Fields said. “This is not us. This is not Natchez-Adams County. We’re doing everything that we can possibly do to help our students and keep them in school, but we need your help. … We need to embrace each other’s efforts to stop the violence in our community.”

During Wednesday’s broadcast, officials further discussed the combined efforts of both the county and city’s law enforcement agencies to put a stop to future incidents and apprehend those involved in previous cases.

“The community getting involved is important,” Grennell said. “We urge churches and organizations throughout the community to join forces together in order to deal with these issues we’ve been facing.”

Both Armstrong and Patten said their respective agencies have worked hand in hand to address the issue, Grennell said, and both officials stressed the need for residents to report crimes and potential crimes to law enforcement.

Patten said people could share tips and information with law enforcement agencies either in person anonymously through the AdamsCo Sheriff app — downloadable on both Google Play and the Apple store — or by calling Crime Stoppers at 601-442-5000.

“If you want to remain anonymous, stay anonymous,” Patten said. “No amount of information is too small.”

Grennell said organizations, businesses and individuals could also contribute by purchasing cameras to install throughout the community and around their homes.

Grennell said the city has already installed 13 cameras in high crime areas of the city through Project NOLA — a program that offers cameras at discount rates, and the city and county are in the process of adding another 19 cameras.

“The more cameras we can install in the community,” Grennell said, “the better off we will be.”

Grennell said the next broadcast would be at 5 today with Adams County Coroner, James Lee, as a special guest.

“We cannot afford to lose any more lives out there, because life is too precious,” Grennell said.

During Wednesday’s radio discussion, Grennell said Armstrong and Patten discussed how they’re working together to fight crime and the help the cameras has provided.

Grennell encouraged neighborhood groups to invest in video cameras to install independently on houses and streets to prevent crimes and to curtail future crimes.

“The more cameras we can install in the community,” Grennell said, “the better off we will be.”

Armstrong said New Orleans has installed cameras throughout the city recently and the city’s crime rate is lower this year than it has been since 1971.

“Camera projects work,” Grennell said. “If neighbors will come together and invest in cameras for neighborhoods that would help tremendously in deterring crime and help law enforcement arrest criminals involved in crime.”