City makes plan to address businesses where crime emanates here

Published 6:27 pm Thursday, January 13, 2022

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen are considering ways to keep citizens safe in light of what seems to be increased gun violence here.

On Tuesday night at about 11:17 p.m., peace in the city was disturbed when what has been described as “rapid gunfire” shook residents in the area of the Zipy Food Store, 320 Martin Luther King St., which is also near a church, Cathedral School and several businesses.

One man went inside the store and before he could come out again his vehicle was struck by bullets, said Natchez Police Chief Joseph Daughtry. In addition, two bullets struck a home in the vicinity.

Email newsletter signup

He said the man stayed inside the store when he heard the gunshots. Police recovered multiple shell casings from the vehicle, which have been sent to the state crime lab and city police are continuing to investigate the incident.

The city’s police committee, which consists of Aldermen Sarah Carter Smith, Ben Davis and Felicia Bridgewater-Irving, along with Mayor Dan Gibson, Daughtry and City Attorney Bryan Callaway plan to meet Friday morning at 10 a.m. to discuss ordinances that would give the city some teeth to use to clamp down on businesses where violence tends to occur.

“We happened to be at a Mississippi Municipal League Conference in Jackson when this took place and were able to talk to Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs, Cleveland Mayor Billy Nowell, whose cities have enacted such ordinances, as well as attorneys for the Mississippi Municipal League and Mississippi Municipal Services,” Gibson said.

“We need to address this problem, but we need to do it correctly,” Gibson said.

The Vicksburg ordinance allows Vicksburg officials to immediate close any business where gun violence occurs. The business remains closed until its owner meets with city officials and signs a memorandum of understanding with the city, including a plan of action to take steps to prevent other crimes from taking place or emanating from the business.

The owner of the business must be able to demonstrate to Vicksburg officials steps they will take, such as hiring outside security, installing metal detectors or decreasing hours the business is open, in order to prevent further gun crime. According to its nuisance ordinance, Vicksburg city and law enforcement officials must agree that the plan submitted by the business is sufficient to prevent future crimes before the business can reopen.

Gibson said he respects the rights of business owners, but residents have the right to live peacefully. He said city police officers have stepped up patrols and made a number of additional improvements to help keep residents safe.

“We are asking citizens to call police and report what they see and to report anything of a suspicious nature,” Gibson said.

Ward 2 Alderman Billie Joe Frazier, who served as a career police officer on the Natchez force, said gun violence and crimes such as domestic violence are running rampant in our nation.

“It’s not just here. As a nation we are in a dilemma. And it’s not just drugs. It’s a full range of things,” Frazier said.

Frazier said the city needs a town hall meeting to gather input from Natchez citizens.

“That way no one can say they didn’t know about what we do,” he said. “We are trying to address this issue, but we can hire all the police officers you want, but it takes more than that. It takes community involvement.”

Frazier said he pledged to support the police department and the city in its plans to combat crime here.

“We aren’t letting (any criminal element) take over this city. I don’t care what color you are, we are all fed up with this,” Frazier said. “Mayor, we may disagree on things at time, but I want you and the board to know you have Frazier’s support 100 percent on law enforcement.”