SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Shreveport Police Chief Ben Raymond spoke out Tuesday, March 23 after a particularly violent couple of weeks in the city.
SPD has now investigated 22 homicides so far this year, the latest being a 5-year-old girl who was struck by a stray bullet.
“I don’t have words,” Raymond said. “I’m a parent myself and there is nothing anyone could tell me if I lost my child.”
As a parent, the police chief said, there’s nothing anyone could tell him that would make him less concerned for his children’s safety. But looking at the statistics, he added, 85% of the homicides SPD has investigated this year are criminal or gang-related, self-defense or domestic-related.
“If you are not involved in criminal activity or gang activity, short of domestic incidents, which can affect anyone unfortunately, the chances of you being involved in violent criminal activity are very slim,” Raymond said.
“I think the concern is when you have a completely innocent 5-year-old. Her family and she were innocent. They weren’t in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were a completely innocent family that was stricken by violence, but that is a rarity. I can say that factually. That isn’t happening on a weekly basis.”
Raymond said gangs are still active in Shreveport, with a majority of the violence happening between gangs. He said ongoing feuds contribute to some shootings in the city.
“I can’t tell you those things do not occur,” the police chief said. “Obviously, they occur. But they occur throughout the nation, throughout the world.
“We are a safe city. My definition of the word safe and someone else’s definition of the word safe may be different,” Raymond continued. “But I can tell you, and I’ve used this analogy before.
“In 1993, when I was running the streets as a teenager, this city had 22,000 Part 1 crimes [Part 1 crimes are murder, manslaughter, sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and arson] and we had 86 homicides that year. I didn’t know that. I’m not going to say my parents didn’t know that, because they watched the news. We didn’t have Facebook, social media, so we didn’t know every time someone was shot, every time a business was robbed, every time somebody was killed. But I can tell you statistically, we are safer now than when I was running the streets as a teenager.”
Raymond said his department’s biggest concern is the upward trend in gun violence and how to combat that trend.
And he would like more help from the community when it comes to investigations. “There isn’t enough help.
“The chances of someone committing a violent crime, driving by somebody’s house and shooting at the house or getting into an altercation without other people knowing who did it are slim,” Raymond said. “So if we had complete assistance from the community, we would be solving all of them.
“We do certainly have people come forward who turn in family members, friends, as well as witnesses that come forward. But there are a lot of these crimes that go unsolved simply because community members don’t work with us.”
Arrests are being made for a majority of the shootings and homicides SPD has investigated so far this year, the police chief said.
“Shootings are more difficult,” Raymond explained. “A lot of our ability in making arrests depends on what type of evidence we have at a scene, what witnesses were there and who comes forward. I don’t have specific numbers when it comes to shootings, but we are in the process of solving a majority of the homicides.”
Shreveport Police Department has investigated 22 homicides this year compared to 11 at this time in 2020.
Raymond said with the recent graduation of 10 SPD officers from the police academy, his department is short 95 officers. While he said he doesn’t correlate the department being short with the number of shootings the city has seen, he said it does prevent them from responding to shootings the way he would like.
“I would like to have more officers in the streets,” Raymond said. “I would like to be able to run more specialized units that are focused on proactive enforcement, seizing weapons from the streets.
“We graduated a cadet class three weeks ago, which is helping. But when you are down that many officers, there are simply things you cannot do to meet basic police services.”
SPD has reached out to other law enforcement agencies for help, Raymond said.
“Generally, the problems in the city contribute to problems in the region,” the police chief said. “So northwest Louisiana as a whole would face problems because of any crime in Shreveport.
“We do have a lot of assistance. The Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office assists us. We have a couple of different task forces. We have officers assigned to all the federal agencies that are represented. I had a meeting yesterday with U.S. Attorney Alex Van Hook and Caddo District Attorney James Stewart; and we discussed some trends and things we can do to improve in investigations and prosecutions. I speak just about weekly with Louisiana State Police, Shreveport city marshals, so we have a close relationship with many of the law enforcement agencies represented in our area and they are assisting.”
Watch the chief’s full interview below: