Police, dispatch must do better communicating

Published 9:48 pm Monday, November 9, 2020

As has been reported by this newspaper, Natchez has too many shots fired incidents inside the city limits.

A couple of weeks ago, a man was shot in the parking lot of a convenience store on North Martin Luther King Jr. Street across for Cathedral school. The shooting took place in the early evening when students were still on the school grounds.

Fortunately, the victim did not suffer life-threatening injuries from the wounds but many people felt enough was enough with that incident.

In recent years, that stretch of North Martin Luther King Jr. Street just north of Jefferson Street has seen too many shootings, violent incidents and crimes, petty and more serious, in general.

Earlier this year, in September, a man was injured in a shooting one block west on North Rankin Street. Much of the activity in that area seems to be connected to two convenience stores.

Police said they have been called due to gunshots, drug violations, prostitution, public urination and defecation.

The Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen held a meeting a couple of weeks ago in which business owners in the area were called to answer questions and the public came out to raise their concerns.

The meeting was productive and led to the city ordering City Attorney Bryan Callaway to conduct investigations into activity at the businesses and if found in violation to take measures including making them hire security at the businesses under the threat of having their business licenses revoked.

After all of that, on Monday morning someone on social media posted about hearing shots fired in the area of North Rankin near Cathedral School at 1:30 a.m. Monday. When I saw the post, I contacted Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong to see if anything came of the report. Armstrong responded saying he had no reports of the incident.

So, I responded to the person who made the post on social media and said that police had no record of a call and that if you hear shots fired you should report it to police.

Not long after, the person responded and said they had indeed reported the incident to police and that shootings were getting out of hand in that area, where they have lived in and operated a business in for 40 years.

I again reached out to Armstrong who said he had no idea why they would say they reported the shots fired and he would have no record of it.

Then, The Democrat got a copy of the police reports from the E911 dispatch office and there it was in the Natchez Police Department rounds, a report of shots fired at 1:30 a.m. Monday in the vicinity of N. Rankin. I did a mea culpa to the social media poster and shared a picture of the rounds with the shots fired report, which indicated the report was “unfounded,” which I have learned means police found no victim or evidence of gunshots, which does not necessarily mean no shots were fired.

When I questioned Armstrong about it again, he contacted the 911 Dispatch, which said they had a computer problem that had prevented them from sharing reports with the Natchez Police Department for the past three days.

Armstrong said an officer also failed to include the report in his overnight report.

Armstrong said the computer problem should be resolved in a matter of days and now that they are aware of it, will do a better job of getting overnight reports from officers.

Thanks to a social media post, we learned of a problem in our system, and hopefully it will be resolved soon.

The incident proves the importance of, “If you see or hear something, say something,” which law enforcement and elected officials have been saying for the past few years.

Scott Hawkins is the editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at 601-445-3540 or scott.hawkins@natchezdemocrat.com.