How Do You Stop Violent Crime in Shreveport?
Shreveport has always had a crime problem. In the 80s and 90s, the city was ultra-violent with gangland style shootouts and murders. Then, in the early 2000s, crime dipped a bit. But, while violent crime has dipped in recent years, it is starting to inch back up. While we're nowhere near the levels of violence from the 80s or 90s, I don't think anybody can claim that Shreveport is currently in a great place.
In fact, the recent run of murders and violence in the city caused tempers and tensions to flare at a recent Shreveport City Council meeting. Specifically, Chief Ben Raymond and Councilman James Green had...let us just call it a heated discussion over crime prevention and SPD's plan to curb violence.
The Chief told the Council that SPD is working with other departments including the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office to help reduce crime in the city. He also noted that his goal is to try and get illegal weapons out of the hands of criminals who shouldn't have them. Mayor Adrian Perkins and Chief Raymond have also been touring neighborhoods to discuss crime concerns with citizens.
And while some are not in favor of community oriented policing, it has been proven to reduce crime. That approach builds trust with the community and increases the likelihood that citizens will reach out to police when problems occur. However, that is not enough on its own and the City of Shreveport has to fight the crime battle on multiple fronts to try and reduce crime.
So far this year, Shreveport has had 73 murders; up from 42 in 2019. In 2018, the number of murders was 59. So, 2020 has seen a pretty large increase over recent years. And those are just the murders. The number of overall shootings and stabbings have increased in 2020 as well.
So, the big question is "why has crime spiked so dramatically?" And there's no one singular answer to that question. Research suggests that crime increases with poverty levels regardless of race. And 2020, financially speaking, has been hard on a lot of people. Businesses have closed, people have been laid off...the outlook is rather bleak on that front. Plus, behavioral experts have hypothesized that between poor financial situations and governmental lockdowns have caused a 'multiplication effect' when it comes to violent crime which in turn is leading to higher numbers across the country.
Another issue communities are dealing with, Shreveport included, is a lack of trust in law enforcement. With an increased focus this year on police violence, many are afraid to call police because it may cause more problems than it solves. And with multiple incidents including deaths and violent encounters, some communities are not willing to reach out to police when they seem criminal activities. And in many instances, if low level crime eventually grows into a bigger issue.
So, as the title of the post suggest, how do we fix our crime problem? And while there's not a simple or direct answer, there are a few things the City can do to get things back on track.
1) Fix the economical issues in the City. I get that this is a BIG ask...especially in the throws of a pandemic. But, when the majority city lives at or below the poverty line, crime is going to be a problem. It just is. And this has been far from a banner year for Shreveport. Libbey Glass is closing and 400+ there will be out of work by the end of the year. Dozens of other local businesses have shuttered and will not be returning to our community. So, until there is a pathway to gainful employment and other ways of life, crime is going to a major problem. Just look at the past two years, there were job announcements and new businesses opening, crime went down. This year, businesses are closing and people are getting laid off, crime goes up. Again, I get we're in a pandemic and a lot things are out of Adrian and City's control...but there's also been a lot of factories and businesses that have been closed for a lot of years. And we've had some wins in recent years, but we could definitely use more.
2) Regaining the Trust of the Community: As mentioned before community policing can't solve all of our issues, but it certainly does help. Plus, you add in the lack of trust do to the deaths of multiple people while in police custody and other controversies related to violence and abuse regarding SPD, there's a LOT of bridges that need to be mended right now. It's hard to have the city's trust or participation when you've been in the news numerous times for officers being indicted or allegedly using excessive force or abusing their powers. I'm the first to say that most officers are good people that do good work and are here to help...but, this has not been a banner year when it comes to community relations and trust. The Mayor and Chief being out in the community is a good first step to rebuilding that bridge...but they have to do more than just that to get a large group the population back on their side.
3) Targeting Troubled Areas: There's a lot of folks who are against 'targeting' and 'criminal profiling', but it's a proven method that works. If you know an area is a high crime area, you make them tactical focuses and arrest the criminal elements working in said area. It worked for former Mayor Cedric Glover and Police Chief Willie Shaw. And it has worked for Mayor Perkins and Chief Raymond. Sometimes, while trying to gain trust, it may not be popular to have tactical teams running around and conducting raids, but sometimes you need to do what you need to do for the betterment of the community. And I will say that Chief Raymond seemingly has a good working relationship with agencies like the Caddo Sheriff's Office and U.S. District Attorney's Office and those relationships have led to taking some really bad people off the streets. I'm not a Shreveport Police Officer, so I'm sure there's plenty of operations happening that I don't know about. But, maybe being more public and saying "hey, we got this new task force. If you're selling drugs or guns, we're coming for you" might instill some confidence in the public and fear into the heart of criminals.
Again, I don't have a degree in Political Science or Behavioral Science or Law Enforcement. But, I am a concerned citizen that has been paying attention to law enforcement tactics and research for years because I want whatever community I live in to be the best that it can be. Sadly, Shreveport has this never ending cycle where things get better for a bit and you start to thing we've turned the corner...then BAM! crime goes way up and the murder rate goes way up.
I hope one day that we as a community can create a place where we can do cool things without worry. Where crime isn't a viable option because there's other pathways available. And, I will give credit where credit is due. Adrian Perkins has put in some pretty cool programs where kids can learn skills and have an opportunity have a career that doesn't include violence or drugs. But there's still a lot of work to do.