How do we move forward as a community?

Published 2:30 pm Saturday, January 29, 2022

Last week Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson claimed The Democrat’s coverage of crime in our city and those residents who have questioned the city’s response to crime was ‘irresponsible.’

The mayor said “the local media and citizens that have thrown businesses under the bus” by speaking about safety concerns and growing crime issues were being irresponsible.

We think the mayor’s approach is wrong and his reaction filled with emotion rather than a spirit of community leadership and cohesion.

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As the community’s newspaper for more than 150 years, we have long had the responsibility to report the news that affects our community and our neighbors.

And so far in 2022, crime is arguably the most pressing issue affecting our community.

In the past four weeks, our city has recorded two murders and at least six shooting incidents, including shots fired into residences and at least one business – a casino packed with patrons on New Year’s Eve where random bullets fired into the air fell and struck a patron, fortunately the casino patron was not seriously injured.

Crime – specifically gun crime – is a problem, and seeking to minimize the concerns or downplay the dangers won’t make the issue disappear.

Residents should never feel belittled or berated for speaking out about their concerns, whether to the newspaper; to the mayor directly; or to any other public forum which they choose to use.

That is why we are committed to share how crime is affecting the lives and livelihoods of all citizens.

Natchez has long been a melting pot for citizens from all walks of life and with a variety of experience. That diversity is what makes us who we are.

We maintain our commitment to report what our law enforcement and court systems are doing to thwart crime. And, counter to what the mayor said at Tuesday’s meeting, we bear the responsibility of asking questions of leaders and authorities that will help our community better address the situation.

Rather than point fingers and lay blame and question each other’s motives, let’s ask ourselves a simple question: How do we?

How do we – the elected officials and community leaders – help all our citizens?

How do we make sure our children are safe in their schools and on their sidewalks?

How do we make sure we are investing our tax dollars and our resources into the tools, programs and services that will make a real difference in making our community safe?

No one in Natchez needs to have a bullet fly into their house and they certainly shouldn’t feel belittled for standing up and acknowledging the problem.

Admitting the problem exists, addressing the underlying issues and working together as a community to overcome the challenge are the only responsible things to do.

Let’s stop drawing lines in the sand and start drawing our community together.