Nearly 150 people attended a town hall meeting held at Caddo Magnet High School on the issue of violence in Shreveport that at times grew heated Monday evening.
Caddo Parish Sherifff Steve Prator said the area’s law-abiding citizens aren’t as innocent as they want to believe.
“The guns are coming from you all in this room,” Prator said. “The guns are coming from vehicles and homes where people aren’t leaving them secured.”
The panel consisted of Shreveport Councilwoman LeVette Fuller, who organized the town hall after last week’s shooting death of a 13-year-old girl in South Highlands, and seven heads of local governmental agencies. Fuller titled the town hall the “Love Your City” community meeting.
Clay Walker, the director of juvenile services for Caddo Parish, said the community is not putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to preventative measures for juvenile crime.
“Juvenile services has gone out for a millage five times in the last 20 years and we’ve been denied all five times,” Walker said.
“Don’t allow things to get out of hand before you call us,” said Shreveport Police Chief Wayne Smith.
“I’ve never in my lifetime seen a police officer stop someone from being shot down,” said Robert Tyler to the panelists. Tyler is the Vice President of the People’s Promise, a local activist group.
Citizens asked the panel about programs they thought could stem local violence, including focuses on mental health, poverty, job training, unemployment, teen pregnancy, and economic inequality. Some mentioned defunding the law enforcement agencies in order to fund those programs. Prator disagreed with that latter point.
“I can’t talk poverty with to the grandparents of the six kids who have been gunned down this year,” Prator said. “They’ll look at me like I’m crazy.”
One citizen asked Chief Smith and Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator why ShotSpotter gunshot detection technology has not be implemented in Shreveport. ShotSpotter is being used in cities across the country for its ability to pinpoint gunshots quickly, allowing police officers to sometimes arrive at shooting scenes before dispatchers receive emergency calls.
Smith said the system is too expensive for Shreveport.
“You’ll pay half a million to get it installed now and a quarter million every year to operate it,” Smith said.
“The Real-Time Crime Center with video is going to help us a lot more than ShotSpotter,” Smith added.
Real-Time Crime Center director Keith Hanson said operating ShotSpotter could actually cost the city $2 million annually. Hanson said RTCC is working to install 90 high-hanging cameras over the next four months.
“What makes ShotSpotter really work is when every single shot is treated like a crime scene and you need massive manpower to make that work,” Hanson said.
Hanson said lots of crime happens with stolen vehicles so he believes the city would be better off by installing license plate detection equipment. Smith said the city is currently working out the logistics for that type of program.
Clay Walker, the director of juvenile services for Caddo Parish, said his office has had difficulty addressing youth violent offenders because many of the delinquents coming through the system are being reprimanded for truancy – a trend Walker said began during the COVID pandemic. Walker said as many as 50 percent of his teen offenders are there for truancy and he’s seeing the offenders be as young as 6 and 8 years old.
Smith said SPD currently has 122 openings. Prator suggested it was hard to fill those vacancies because of an increase in violence against police officers.
“The past few months have been the most dangerous for law enforcement since the profession of law enforcement was began,” Prator said.
Kendrick Dante writes for the USA Today Network and is a government watchdog reporter in Shreveport, Louisiana. He enjoys cooking, concerts, and content. Email him at [email protected] or connect on Twitter @kendrickdante.
This article originally appeared on Shreveport Times: Shreveport government heads listen to citizen input at gun town hall