SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - After a few particularly violent weeks in Shreveport, Police Chief Ben Raymond says he believes the city is safe but wants more help from the community when it comes to aiding investigations.
“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. “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.
“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.”
Shreveport native Marvin “Jabber Jaws” Williams says there are several reasons for the crime in the city. “I think this community got away from the basics,” he explained.
“When I was growing up, the parents were really involved. It wasn’t enough for you to get a whoopin’ by your Momma. Most kids my age were scared of their Momma, their Daddy too. But the parenting has really changed.
“Nowadays, they are more friendly with the kids. They are sitting there knowing what their kids are doing and are allowing them to do it,” Williams continued. “Nobody is getting in their faces or reaching out to them. What’s happening is they are doing things for attention. A lot of this is parenting. Even if the mom and dad are not together, they have to step up, the church too. It’s going to take the whole community. You know how people say it takes a village? Real talk. We can’t just pray on it and march on it. We got to get out there and do something in reference to it. We got to get in their face. We have to serve the community.”
Williams says a majority of the crime in the city is in certain areas among a small group of people.
“It’s just a few of them doing it and it’s not really gang-related,” Williams said. “They’re on the respect thing. They want that respect and want people to know who they are, that if you disrespect them, that’s a problem. The gang violence to me has really changed in Shreveport. It was bad at one time, but a lot of people have it confused. It really isn’t about gangs anymore. I think the young people are doing it for respect and do it because they are being encouraged by other peers they are hanging out with. I always tell people at the end of the day, when you look at the crime and who is doing it, they are going home to somebody grown.”
He says at the end of the day, the community needs to come together as a whole to see real change.
“We have to support the mayor, the police, and everybody else who is just trying to do positive things,” Williams said. “Shreveport is a divided city. We all have to come together and go out to these areas. We can’t just ride by and view them. We have to get out and talk to the people, get to know them, make them feel good. Get back to the basics. If we do that, we will see change, we will se a big difference. When I say everybody, I don’t just mean our leaders, our preachers and everyday people in the community, people that are in professional fields, you got to stop and you will see change because some of those kids don’t think about it. They say what’s on their heart. Once they feel comfortable with you, they will tell you everything you need to know. That would help solve the crime too.”
Williams says Shreveport isn’t as bad as some portray it. He says when you look at it, it’s the same areas where the city is having the same problems.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” Williams said. “Until we break the cycle, we are going to continue to have it. It’s not the mayor’s fault, it’s not the police chief’s fault, it’s all our faults, the whole community. We pray on it, we march on it, but what do we do after we finish praying and marching? We go home. We don’t pray and march where it’s happening. We go downtown, we go different places, but we have to start going into these communities. I’m a part of an organization called COG. Children of God. We target the Mooretown community. We are doing something this Saturday. Each month we go over there. We’re in the projects. We’re at New Zion, Clear Horizons Apartments. We go out there with them. We pick up trash. We have hot dogs. Chief Raymond came out to one of our events. We do it every month because we know the crowds over there. Since we have been going over there, it still goes on, but it isn’t as bad. It’s going to take more than what we’re doing and it needs to come from the heart.”
Every Saturday during February (Black History Month), Williams says they handed out awards to those who have done positive things in their community.
“It makes people feel good,” Williams said. “If nothing else, you’re winning somebody over and they will be the ones who come and talk to you. People are appreciative. You just need to be out there doing what you need to do.”
Terrance Winn spent 30 years in Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder.
“I was 16. It was Christmas night 1989. While attending a party here, I committed two crimes. I was tried as an adult and sentenced to life and 25 years in prison with hard labor. In 2012, a law changed that said you can’t give a kid an automatic life sentence. I benefited from that law and came home eight months ago.”
In 2012, in the court case Miller v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juveniles can’t be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In 2016, in Montgomery v. Louisiana, the Supreme Court made the previous ruling retroactive. These two rulings paved the way for Winn to walk out of Angola as a free man.
He says he’s seeing the same type of violence in the city today that sent him to prison in the first place.
“It takes a concerted effort from the OGs,” Winn said. “The guys that these street guys really respect. If they don’t respect you, they won’t listen to you. If they know you’ve been in the situation that they have been in, whether you changed or you’re still participating, they’ll listen to you. A lot of guys have it in their head that these young guys won’t listen to them, but they actually will. You just have to take the time to talk to them. That’s what a lot of us aren’t doing. We just see them and we are scared of them, so we won’t say anything to them. We just comment about them behind their back instead of just approaching them. They want to talk to you. A lot of these guys don’t actually want to do what they are doing, but they don’t have anyone to steer them away from that and give them alternatives, so they end of participating. Sometimes that participation leads to people dying or them going to prison. All it takes is a word to them, then that word will open up a flood gate and they will talk to you and they will stop participating. I was one of those kids and people weren’t saying anything. At the time when I was coming up, people would see me with my pants sagging, dressing the part of the streets. When I dressed the part, people wouldn’t want to talk to me. They thought I would kill them, rob them. I was just a kid that wanted attention from the older guys, the people I respected. If someone would have come to me and shown me a better way, I probably would have done that.”
Winn says the community needs more positive role models for those who are committing the crimes in the city to begin modeling their lives after. He says he wants to inspire those individuals to not take the same path he did.
“I want them to know there is alternative to doing wrong,” Winn said. “There are consequences when you make bad decisions and those consequences can lead to two places: prison or death. Those are the sad realities. We shorten our lives with the violence. I lived it. So now I try to give back so others don’t have to live that. Being in prison is a sad existence. You also lose your family. When I was in prison, I lost my parents, my uncle, my grandparents. My actions made me lose my mom and my dad. I didn’t have to do what I did, but I didn’t know that. I was living a lifestyle and was lost in that lifestyle. If you are blinded by a lifestyle, you don’t see anything else. It’s about teaching people to think through your anger, because a lot of us give into our anger. I gave into my anger and it cost me 30 years and seven months of my life, all because I didn’t know how to think through my anger. There isn’t anyone in the world that doesn’t get mad, but you have to know how to think through it because when you don’t think through it, people can die. People can get hurt. That’s what I try to teach people. It only takes you a nanosecond to squeeze the trigger and end someone’s life and end your life.”
J. Antonio Florence is a civil rights and criminal defense attorney who has lived in Shreveport since 2007. He says the time for talk with no action is over.
“We have all seen the violence,” Florence said. “We keep talking about the violence and how it’s increasing, but that conversation needs to end. We know that there is too much violence in Shreveport and we all want it to stop. What we are not seeing is leaders stepping up and stating solutions, whether they work or not, just some things we can try to bring some of this violence down. Everyone should be afraid of the violence. Don’t get me wrong, I understand drugs are a problem, domestic abuse is a problem, but at some point, as a community, we have to prioritize. I understand that the police department and sheriff’s office are saying they are short on their numbers, they don’t have enough officers to patrol this and that, but we have to prioritize. We have to decided as a community what is important to us. We all have to come together as a community. Not just law enforcement, but the entire community has to come together to bring solutions to how we can solve some of these problems. I think initially, some of the biggest solutions are having those in the community who want to do the work and are willing to do the work to get in front of our so called community leaders and have our leaders actually listen to them, follow some of their guidance instead of sitting back and just saying there is a problem. There are people in the community that have solutions that we should try. Talking without action is just talk. It’s just lip service. That’s what we’ve been getting from our leaders. We’ve seen too many photo ops, too many speeches in front of City Hall. We absolutely need community leaders, law enforcement to get into these communities, get out of your car, walk the streets, and knock on doors. Knock on every door until you find people in the community to talk to. I’ve spoken with so many community activists who have solutions, but leaders aren’t talking to them and don’t even know who they are. The only way they will find out who these community activists are is to find them, talk to them, engage them, and listen to them. Again, some solution is better than no solution. That’s what I would like to see in Caddo Parish.”