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Does Shreveport have a gang problem? Depends on who you ask

The question police and community leaders are dealing with in Shreveport is how to get a handle...
The question police and community leaders are dealing with in Shreveport is how to get a handle on the rising rate of violent crime. The answer begins with another question: Who's committing the violence?((Source: Gray Media))
Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 6:31 AM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - The question police and community leaders are dealing with in Shreveport is how to get a handle on the rising rate of violent crime.

And that starts with a different question: Exactly who is committing the crimes.

According to Shreveport Police Chief Ben Raymond overall crime is down. Instead, it’s the city’s record pace of homicides so far this year that’s drawn so attention.

Chief Raymond started this work week with a news conference on Monday, August 17. He shared the results of a 3-day firearm crackdown in Shreveport, seizing 30 stolen guns and making 45 arrests.

But as the city is on a record pace for homicides, with 39 already this year, on Monday the chief pointed to one factor in particular for much of the recent increase in violent crime.

"A lot of this is gang activity to be quite honest. We have some heightened gang activity within the city. And we have a lot of retaliatory shootings at this time."

This past weekend alone, the city saw at least 5 more shootings with 10 gunshot victims.

Even a ‘Stop the Violence’ event in the Mooretown neighborhood came to an abrupt end on Sunday after a series of gunshots nearby.

As a civil rights and criminal defense attorney, J. Antonio Florence says if there was an active gang feud in Shreveport, he would know.

"To say that gang members are responsible for the shooting, that gangs are retaliating against gangs, it's code. It's basically trying to tell the community don't be afraid, don't be nervous. It's gangs killing gangs so you have nothing to worry about."

Instead, Florence says it's mostly loosely organized small groups of people and nothing like the gang activity we saw in the '80s and '90s.

Blaming a large portion of the increase in violence, says Florence, can give much of the public a false sense of security.

"Caddo Parish has a problem. There are shootings that are happening throughout Caddo Parish. Yes, some of them are centrally located in certain neighborhoods, certain areas. But it affects all of Caddo Parish."

Florence also summed up the shooting at the Mooretown Community Gardens on Sunday.

"We have no idea who's out doing the shootings. But what we do know they were idiots. They were stupid. They were dumb."

In speaking with the building owner on the southeast corner of Hollywood and Broadway Avenues, Willie Perry described why he allowed the Shreveport Police Department's Mobile Command Unit to park on his property for much of the day on this Wednesday.

Perry too recoiled at the notion of assigning blame for the surge in violent crime largely on gang activity.

"It's just groups of people that grew up together, not officially saying, 'well, we're this gang and that gang. But, you know, for the most part this particular area sticks together."

And Florence concludes that much of the retaliation we're seeing on our streets this summer is more personal rather than gang-related.

“One person mad at another person. That individual who went to that house and a problem was started. It had nothing to do with a gang affiliation,” he said.

“Even some of the cases that I have where, again, there’s the quote-unquote drive-by shooting from the information I got from the D.A.‘s office. It was one person who was mad because maybe a boyfriend-girlfriend, upset at the third person.”

We reached out to the police department to learn more about what the chief has described as a growing gang threat.

But Shreveport Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Angie Willhite tells us at this time they don't want to give out any information at all about the gang situation, explaining that a task force is hard at work on the issue and that giving out any more information could potentially jeopardize their safety and the criminal investigation.

As for solutions, Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral Pastor Bishop L. Lawrence Brandon says there's been enough talking.

He says all those anti-crime marches and prayer vigils have their place, but insists that now is the time for action.

“I just think if all of us get together collectively and put our egos down and work together we can change the trajectory of Shreveport-Bossier surrounding areas.”

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