A year ago, during the campaign for Mayor, we talked about building a smart, safe city. Natchez is too wonderful a community to allow crime to persist, threatening the peace and harmony of our residents. In the many months since the election, we have worked hard to live up to this promise. And much progress has been made.
Just this week, I am excited to report that our law enforcement agencies, the Natchez Police Department and the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, working closely together, made a significant step forward in curbing crime in our community.
In October of last year, prompted by a shooting that occurred at the Shop N Save Gas Station at Martin Luther King Jr. Road and Aldrich Streets, the City of Natchez held a public hearing on this issue. There was standing room only in the largest conference hall at the Natchez Convention Center as one after one, concerned citizens, business owners, and residents voiced their concerns about their community, comprising of several blocks along North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street, north of St. Catherine Street.
We followed this public hearing up with a community meeting at Beulah Baptist Church. The outcome of both meetings was the same: a general concern that unsafe conditions were being allowed to persist due to certain businesses and their lack of concern for the community in which they operated.
Of particular concern was this very gas station where the shooting in October had occurred, just one of several violent incidents over the past several years to take place there. For a long time, this business had been suspected of engaging in illegal activity, operating right across the street from a school and a medical clinic, in the vicinity of homes, churches, legitimate businesses, restaurants, and two funeral homes.
While reports had been made, no real action had been taken. All of this changed after those meetings in October. Undercover work began, and though frustrated many times, our law enforcement agencies persisted until several breaks occurred. Finally, a raid was conducted this week, arrests were made, and significant evidence was obtained, including illegal drugs, guns, paraphernalia, and a large amount of cash.
The business has now been closed, and it will remain closed for the foreseeable future. This is not something we take pleasure in doing, making arrests and closing a business. And many residents in the area do need a good, legitimate small grocery and convenience store to meet their needs. We will be working to help make a better situation a reality.
But this is the important takeaway: Crime in Natchez will not be tolerated. We are blessed to have a Police Chief, Joseph Daughtry, and a Sheriff, Travis Patten, who, along with their dedicated officers, are willing to do what it takes to identify and stop illegal activity in our community.
We have a lot more work to do. And yes, we have unsolved crimes and murders that have impacted some of our residents. Rest assured we are doing all we can to bring justice and closure to these families. But we can certainly say that it’s a new day in Natchez.
Anyone up to no good be warned. We will find you. We will prosecute you. And we will do all we can to make and keep Natchez safe. It’s important to our seniors. It’s important to our children. And it’s important to everyone in between. Natchez Deserves More.
Dan M. Gibson is mayor of the City of Natchez.