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Natchez police committee calls for businesses to provide security after Monday shooting

NATCHEZ — Natchez officials are calling for business owners on North Martin Luther King Jr. Street to provide a security plan or risk having their business licenses taken, after a Monday shooting in the area near Cathedral School.

The action came during an emergency meeting of the city’s police committee called by Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson on Tuesday afternoon in response to the Monday shooting outside a convenience store at the corner of Aldrich and Martin Luther King Jr. streets near Cathedral school.

Attendees at the emergency meeting included Gibson and committee members, Alderman Ben Davis, Alderwoman Felicia Irving, who called in to the meeting via teleconference, Natchez City Attorney Brian Calloway, Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong and investigators with the Natchez Police Department.

Gibson said the business owners — particularly at convenience stores on Martin Luther King Jr. Street where recent crimes have occurred — should be held accountable for not providing adequate security.

“We have given special attention to this area … because of the number of complaints we are receiving, the number of calls coming in to E911 and because of our desire to see that community be the best it can be,” Gibson said.

In a Sept. 22 meeting of the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen, officials heard concerns from citizens, Mona Bates and Michael Boykin, about illegal and disruptive activity at another convenience store on Martin Luther King Jr. Street.

“We have been taking very seriously the reports that we have been receiving with regard to the safety of various convenience stores — just a few — here in Natchez,” Gibson said.

Other businesses, churches, schools and children and elderly persons living in the area are also impacted by the business owners’ negligence, Gibson said.

“We are reaching out to the business owners of various businesses in that area to ask them to come to our board meeting, which will be held Tuesday night at the Convention Center, and we are going to request of them that they immediately begin developing security plans to be presented to the city for our approval,” Gibson said “If we do not get satisfactory plans, than we may consider other steps to ensure the safety of our community.”

Gibson said an adequate security plan would include having sufficient lighting, working security cameras and a security guard all at the business owner’s expense.

“We are not here to spend taxpayer dollars doing what a private business owner should be doing themselves,” Gibson said. “… This city will not hesitate to declare a business a public nuisance and this city will not hesitate to pull a business license and shut a business down.”

Armstrong said he has felt for a long time that business owners should be held accountable for the frequent crimes that happen on their properties.

“We’re starting to shift the blame and responsibility where some, if not most of it, should lie and that is at the feet of these business owners who are constantly making money off of our citizens but they are not providing public safety for them,” Armstrong said. “It is our responsibility to respond to any incident that happens in this city, but there is so much more that these business owners can do to lighten the load on their law enforcement,” Armstrong said. “They have a responsibility just like we do in our houses. We have a responsibility to keep our home safe for our families and our kids … They have that same responsibility for their customers. … Doing nothing is not an option.”

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