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More crime cameras bought in wake of January shooting incident

NATCHEZ — City of Natchez officials immediately granted a request for more crime cameras Tuesday in response to a Jan. 11 shooting incident on High Street.

During Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen, the issue was brought forward by a concerned citizen, Mike Blattner.

Blattner said two vehicles sped along High Street in front of his house at approximately 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 11, which was a little more than two weeks ago. The driver in one vehicle fired 14 or more shots at the vehicle in front of him, Blattner said.

Not only did the incident place innocent people in danger, it also was bad for business, Blattner said.

“David Gardner, who lives in Choctaw Hall across the street from me, had a full house of B&B guests — four rooms occupied,” he said. “Those people left Natchez Sunday morning horrified and will never come back to Natchez again. I can promise you they will go back to their homes and tell dozens of people that it’s not safe to be in Natchez.”

Blattner said better cameras in dangerous parts of the city could be the simplest and most affordable solution to curtail future crimes.

“I’m a strong supporter of our law enforcement, but the police can’t be everywhere,” Blattner said. “My cameras, as good as they are, do not show the license plate on these vehicles. Had the right cameras been in place, I think these guys would be in jail right now.”

With a motion by Alderwoman Sarah Carter-Smith, the board unanimously agreed to purchase $16,000 worth of additional cameras through Project NOLA using the remainder of last year’s travel budget and a rebate from Entergy.

Through Project NOLA, the money would cover 25 to 50 additional cameras with a data storage fee of $20 per month per camera, officials said.

“Yes, the cameras are very effective,” Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong said in agreement with Blattner. “For the ones we do have across the city, we have noticed crime has gone down in those areas. Not only that, but we have been able to build some significant cases as a result of being able to capture the crime that has occurred in those areas. As all of you have noticed, we are trending in the right direction. But just one individual to fall victim to a violent crime is one too many.”

Armstrong said the cameras alone were not enough to stop all crimes, however. It also takes people reporting the crimes they witness, he said.

“Some of those persons you may see as a victim are not always a victim,” Armstrong said. “The crime (Blattner) spoke about earlier did not get reported until 15 hours after the incident. Here was someone who was riding along and their vehicle was struck, but they saw no need to report it until several hours later. Once he did finally come in, and we interviewed him, we were not able to ascertain who the suspect is nor the vehicle the suspect was driving. … What happens is a lot of those who do see something do not say something. For the life of me, I cannot see how a person could be the victim of a crime and not be cooperative with the police and report it. That is what makes having these cameras so important.”

Armstrong said the incident is still under investigation and no arrests were made as of Wednesday.