Caddo commissioner pushes for new crime-fighting tool; mayor, SPD not on board

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - It happens far too often.

Gunshots are fired at night. Police show up to find nothing. And no one even calls to report it.

Hours later, when the sun comes up, someone finds a body.

District 3 Caddo Commissioner Steven Jackson wants to turn to technology to try to keep tragedies like that from ever happening again.

He wants it to alleviate the concerns of people like retired truck driver Cleophis Black. The lifelong resident of Shreveport recalls how religion once was the backbone of the inner city but says things have changed.

"When they took prayer out of school, they didn't realize what they were doing. They gave room for Satan to walk in, " Black says.

"I'm on my way home now and probably won't come out for the rest of the day. I think we need to get on our city leaders."

Jackson wants to let Black and residents like him know that technology might be the key to curbing crime.

"It's unfortunate because it doesn't seem that we have a real comprehensive plan to address crime," Jackson said. "Back in 2016, one of the commissioners had suggested it; and we actually had a presentation at our intergovernmental meeting."

Now Jackson is bringing the idea back. It's called ShotSpotter.

Gunfire sensors are placed on elevated surfaces to detect when a shot is fired. Seconds later, nearby police officers are alerted on their phones or laptops to almost exactly where the shot came from.

Jackson says, "When they get the notification it sends them a notification did the person go east, did the person go west, did the person go north? So they can start setting up a perimeter to look for this person."

According to Shreveport police, there were 50 homicides in the city last year, mostly shootings. Twenty-three arrests were made in those cases. That's less than 50 percent.

Districts 10 and 11 had the most homicides, with 17 combined. Those districts include Hollywood, Sunset Acres, Cedar Grove west of I-49, Caddo Heights and parts of Ingelside.

A recent University of Virginia study found only 1 in 8 gunfire incidents are reported to police.

Baton Rouge Deputy Chief Robert McGarner says a huge problem is in the inner city. "Unfortunately, people in some of these communities, they get immune to shots fired. But if you have a ShotSpotter in the area, police respond anyway."

Baton Rouge is one of more than 90 cities throughout the country with ShotSpotter.

McGarner says his department has benefited from a quicker response time to calls, but the most important effect is the collection of shell casings at the scene.

"You're able to connect the dots. The way these guys are, they will hand guns off to each other and you can see where this one weapon has been responsible for multiple shootings in different parts of the city."

Garner's advice to Shreveport law enforcement is to, like Baton Rouge, add crime cameras that run 24 hours a day and tie into the ShotSpotter system.

Jackson says he's proposing the crime cameras as well, but - to address residents' privacy concerns - they'll turn on ONLY when ShotSpotter picks up gunfire.

"Is this spying or is this intrusive, is it invasion of privacy? That's why I think it's important for them to know that the cameras do not activate until a shot is fired."

McGarner disagrees with the cameras only activating when a shot is fired. "I would say that's defeating the purpose.

"If you're going to put a crime camera up, it needs to run 24 hours a day," the Baton Rouge law officer said. "If you know you have an area where there's heavy drug activity, you need to have a ShotSpotter there. If there's a place where you go to multiple shots-fired calls, you need to have a ShotSpotter there. "

Black say he's for it all, including the cameras. "Do whatever is necessary. They get you for speeding, get them for the violence. Put them up. Yeah, I welcome it."

Jackson believes other city leaders need to take a deeper look into using different tools to fight an evolving problems.

"I think the chief, I think the mayor, all those individuals need to do a better job of, one, owning this problem, and two, do more to actually get out in the community to find out what's going on," the commissioner said.

"Hopefully, they will see the benefit of this technology. There are things that we can do now as leaders. Our task and our charge is to lead."

Copyright 2018 KSLA. All rights reserved.