Shreveport’s Mayor Rejects Council’s “State of Emergency” Declaration Idea
Less than a full week after the council’s very public request, at least privately some council members conceded their efforts were largely symbolic.
Now weeks after a unanimous vote by the Shreveport City Council – urging the mayor to declare a state of emergency – they have their answer: No. Less than a full week after the council’s very public request, at least privately some council members conceded their efforts were largely symbolic – to help raise public awareness and citizen involvement. But Mayor Tom Arceneaux’s statement of rejection came right to the point:
“While the rate of shootings and homicides are both unacceptably high, neither the facts nor the statistics support declaring an emergency. Moreover, I cannot determine any practical impact of such a declaration. Thus, I respectfully decline to declare an emergency.”
Outside observers, like Caddo GOP Chairman Louis Avallone, questioned the logic or even the premise behind this whole “state of emergency” issue. “If words could fix everything then sure let’s declare a state of emergency every day, on crime, on poverty, on homelessness. And I guess it will magically be fixed, right? Because we declared it an emergency. So, you know, it was absolutely meaningless.”
Arceneaux’s written response delivered an exhaustive list of just some of the dozens of projects made possible by dozens of grants, utilized for crime fighting efforts in the city of Shreveport. Then there are the multi-jurisdictional task forces, special crime fighting units and even 1,300 surveillance camera feeds located across the city, all in an effort to capture crimes on camera. And you cannot omit the drones, and license plate readers, among the hi-tech crime-fighting tools involved. But Avallone says the call for a state of emergency had little to do with crimefighting tools and tactics “It was for political purposes to demonstrate a sense of helplessness and hopelessness in our community.”
Mayor Arceneaux had already provided a strong, albeit brief, indicator of his thoughts in an initial response, of sorts, telling Red River Radio News that “We compute a violent crime index year-to-date for each month,” Arceneaux explained. "And right now our violent crime index is down.” The mayor elaborates his point by focusing on two factors affecting that violent crime index.
The first factor involves the public’s perception of crime, based on news coverage, and then amplified by social media. This year, Arceneaux says, is the enormous jump in homicides, from 49 in 2022, to well over 70. He says it's easy to get a picture in your mind of innocent bystanders or strangers gunned down. Arceneaux contends the reality is far different: “Most of those are, you know, they’re not random acts that are occurring. So, it isn’t just random people on the street. It’s people who know each other and have some relationship with each other.”
This is where the second factor comes in: auto thefts. “Our auto thefts this year have doubled and so, it’s gone from 600 year-to-date last year, to about 1,200 year-to-date this year. So, I’m not, we’re trying to figure out what’s driving that and develop resources and intelligences to figure out how we can [do] more in apprehending the people.”
While the city council's requested declaration of a violent crime state of emergency, may not have triggered any potential grant or aid money, it did send a strong message that the council wants to see improvements.
According to Councilman Grayson Buecher that desire for positive change in Shreveport will mean greater accountability in crime-fighting efforts. “It’s kind of hard to Monday morning quarterback the police chief because I’m not a policeman, you know. “I’m not the CAO of the city of Shreveport when it comes to budgetary stuff,” as Boucher elaborated, “so, it’s real hard for us to Monday morning quarterback him. However, we want them to know that we’re watching them and if things don’t get better then maybe we need new leadership.”