‘A growing rage’ : Police chief responds to disturbing photo of juveniles with weapons at Mississippi playground

Published 3:40 pm Monday, January 30, 2023

An image circulating social media shows that shows four unidentified juveniles carrying handguns and a rifle while posing in a local park playground exemplifies a “growing rage” among children, according to one Mississippi town’s law enforcement leader.

The Natchez Democrat reports that Natchez Interim Police Chief Cal Green confirmed that the picture was taken in North Natchez Park, though police have only seen a copy of the photo and have not found the original post of the image.

She added officers have patrolled the park and other area parks since the photo was brought to her attention recently and found nothing of concern.

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“The park is fine, no vandalism, litter, or bullet holes anywhere,” she said. “We also went to all of the other parks and haven’t noticed anything except a tiny bit of graffiti where someone carved their initials at Duncan Park.”

Green said weapons are not permitted at any park and if the juveniles responsible are identified, they would have to go through juvenile court.

“Unless it’s a felony crime and they are adjudicated as adults, there isn’t anything we can do,” she said. “We would try to identify them and present that information to the juvenile court.”

Green said this also is not the first incident of its kind in Natchez, citing a growing number of social media posts of children or young adults brandishing weapons.

“There seems to be a growing rage with kids,” she said. “They put them on TikTok, Snapchat and everywhere else showing themselves with firearms that they’ve acquired from someplace.”

Green urged parents and guardians to be proactive and secure any weapons in the home to help remedy the issue.

“We have gunlocks at the police department that have been donated at one event or another, and what that does is render the guns safe so that the kids cannot use them. We also implore parents to have a better relationship with their children and let them know that this is not the direction that they want their lives to go.”

Green said she has been pondering why children feel the need to post such images on social media, whether it’s from fear or if it’s meant as a threat to someone else.

“I’m trying to get to the why,” she said. “Why do we feel that’s the only way to resolve our differences? Why do you think you need a permanent solution to a temporary problem? A lot of children don’t seem to have conflict-resolution skills. I don’t know if it’s in the home where they’ve been taught that the way to resolve conflict is through violence. Someone responsible has to teach them that is not the direction to go. You cannot kill everyone in your life who disagrees with you.”

She added there’s a lot she would like to see happen to remedy the issue, but it takes a collaborative effort.

“Going into schools and talking with the children is something we would like to do. I’ve talked with Neifa Hardy (City of Natchez Community Liaison) about the possibility of setting something up. One thing we don’t want to do is set it up where it’s the entire school at one time. You lose the focus of the children. It needs to be class-by-class conversations that you have with the kids and give them chance to ask honest open questions and give them honest open answers in return. I’d like to see us get our mentor program back up and running and big brothers and sisters brought back.

“It’s going to have to be a concerted effort. Fraternities, sororities and other community activist groups, if you want to do something, help save our children. That’s more important than other issues we have out there. If we don’t save our children, we have no future because children are our future.”