Just the facts ma’am, just the facts

Published 2:05 pm Saturday, January 29, 2022

I may be dating myself with this one, but one of my favorite cops growing up was Sgt. Joe Friday, of the 1970s crime show Dragnet. Sgt. Friday had a famous saying: “Just the facts ma’am, just the facts.”

When I asked for your vote to become your mayor, I pledged to make Natchez a safer city. Lately, there has been some public discourse as to how we are doing. Well, now is a good time to look at the facts – just the facts.

According to city records, crime has been on a steady decline in Natchez for the past decade, from a peak of 1,429 incidents in 2011 to only 562 in 2020. 2021 numbers look even better. Here are some compelling comparisons of a few key crime statistics: Homicide: 5 in 2020, 4 in 2021 – Down. Aggravated Assault: 64 in 2020, 53 in 2021 – Down. Burglary: 260 in 2020, 185 in 2021 – Down. Grand Larceny: 30 in 2020, 23 in 2021 – Down. Petit Larceny, 182 in 2020, 138 in 2021 – Down. Simple Assault: 341 in 2020, 294 in 2021 – Down.

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Three statistics in particular show an impressive difference when compared to just four years ago, 2021 vs. 2018. Homicide: 12 in 2018, 4 in 2021, a reduction of 67%. Burglary: 346 in 2018, 185 in 2021, a reduction of 47%. Simple Assault: 384 in 2018, 294 in 2021, a reduction of 23%.

The good news? We are headed in the right direction. Our Natchez Renewal is working, and the oldest city on the highest bluff could very well be on its way to being the safest city on the safest bluff.

How have we gotten here one might ask? The answer – we have invested in our police. Over the past four months, we have sworn in 16 exceptional new officers. We now have more officers on the force than we have had in years, and these officers are solving crime, several cold cases solved just last year. In addition, we have invested in 13 new vehicles – Mississippi’s newest and best-looking fleet! We recently invested $18,000 in new uniforms, and we are currently working on a $150,000 US Department of Justice Grant that will pay for new cameras to complement the many we already have, some of which will include tag readers.

In addition to this, we now have a new VIPER Unit, Violent Immediate Police Emergency Response, and these 8 officers have been working to get illegal guns off the street – dozens in just the past three months. We also have a new SWAT Unit, Special Weapons and Tactics, 14 officers who began training in December and are now prepared and armed to meet any challenge.

With all of this said, we do realize that statistics don’t matter when crime is happening next door to where you live. And just this week we took immediate steps to address this. First, we increased the penalties for discharging a firearm within the city limits to include mandatory jail time and forfeiture of the weapon. Second, we passed a new Chronic Nuisance Ordinance that allows the city to impose restrictions on any business found to be contributing to an unsafe environment in our city and to even close that business if it doesn’t comply.

Now is a time for a shout out to our police: Job Well Done. Thank you for your dedication and sacrifice. You are making a difference. Yes, we have much more to do, but rest well Natchez. We are following through on our pledge to make ours a Safe City. Natchez Deserves More.

Dan Gibson is mayor of Natchez.