Crime: We are taking necessary steps to stop it
We are blessed to live in a city with a low crime rate. This past weekend, thousands of tourists enjoyed the festivities of our balloon festival weekend, from downtown to our historic bluff, from our Broadway Entertainment District to Under the Hill, all without a single incident of crime.
This is not unusual. For many years Natchez has safely hosted tourists from all over the world without any major incident. This says a lot for our beautiful city, and because of our reputation as a safe and family-friendly destination, expect to see many more tourists enjoying our “Shining City on a Hill.”
Monday night, however, a shooting took place at a convenience store located on N. Martin Luther King Jr. Street. Thankfully the victim is going to survive, but this incident serves as a wake-up call for all of us in Natchez. We have had too many such incidents in our city and county. And even as I write this, families in our community are grieving the loss of loved ones whose lives have been lost to senseless violence, and the cases are still unsolved.
During our short time in office we have had numerous meetings on this issue. We have spent countless hours talking to law enforcement, business owners, family members of victims, even state officials, and we have been taking action.
Just this week, in response to this latest incident, we convened an emergency meeting of our BOA (Board of Aldermen) Police Committee — we have actually been meeting a lot lately. We decided it was time to hold local businesses accountable. Our police can only do so much. It is time for business owners to bear some responsibility for the actions they are allowing at their establishments.
Because of our ability to track 911 calls and crime statistics, we have been able to identify several “hot spots” where criminal activity is regularly taking place. This reported activity includes loitering and open consumption of alcohol at all hours of day and night, drug deals, prostitution, solicitation, physical assaults, violations of the noise ordinance, public urination… the list goes on and on.
For years the owners of these businesses have allowed this activity to take place right under their noses, doing nothing, and placing the burden of their private security issues squarely on the shoulders of our Natchez Police. This has created an unsafe environment for their customers, their employees and for the community as a whole. It is time for this practice to end. And it must end now.
We are contacting the individuals who own these hotspots. We will be requiring them to attend our next Board of Aldermen meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, at the Natchez Convention Center. At this meeting we will ask them to put security plans in place to include improved lighting, cameras, and on-site security guards, all at their expense. It is our desire to work with these businesses in every way possible, so as to avoid having to name them as public nuisances, which would result in closing them down.
Our shining city on a hill must also be a safe city. Natchez deserves more.
Dan M. Gibson is the mayor of Natchez.