Hats off to Shreveport City Councilman Bradford and five of fellow Council members for sending a message to Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler that her administration must do more to address the rising crime rate in Shreveport. Willie Bradford, who is not to be confused with city attorney William Bradford (they are not related), introduced a resolution that the Council approved that urged Tyler “to request the Caddo Sheriff to aid the Shreveport Police Department (SPD) in patrolling and other law enforcement activities within the City of Shreveport in an effort to reduce crime and criminal activity.” Only Councilman Mike Corbin voted against the resolution.
In support of his resolution Bradford cited SPD statistics, comparing April 2017 to the same year to date period from last year. The department’s report showed sharp increases in homicides (138 percent), forcible rape (21 percent), business armed robbery (150 percent), and business burglary (139 percent). Neither Tyler nor SPD Chief Crump refuted the statistics, and only Tyler addressed the Council; she has reportedly put a media muzzle on Crump. Tyler adamantly objected to the resolution at Monday’s work session, stating that the Council did not have the authority to deal with matters of her administration. After realizing that she would be on the losing side of the vote at the Tuesday Council meeting, Tyler meekly stated that she “had no problem with the resolution.”
Tyler advised the Council that she had met previously with Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator, but provided no details of the meeting. Prator advised he met with Tyler “about a month ago. I gave her my philosophy (along with some tangible actions) on reducing crime in the city. Patrolling in the city was not discussed, and I was not directly or indirectly a party to the recent resolution. At present the Caddo Sheriff’s Office is involved in the Caddo- Shreveport Narcotics Task Force and the Caddo-Shreveport Financial Crimes Task Force. Much of the work is done in the city. I created these units over 10 years ago. On many occasions I have offered to the chief of police and the mayor assistance with the violent crime problem in the city.” Whether or not Tyler or Chief Crump have taken heed of Prator’s suggestions is an open question; the continuing violent crime wave probably means Prator’s words fell on deaf ears, which is the norm for Tyler when she hears something contrary to her headstrong way of thinking.
Corbin reminded the Council that crime was usually discussed at every Council meeting and that he was not a fan of symbolic legislation. Later he advised that “a resolution should be reserved for honoring a life well lived, support of community events and support or nonsupport of actions by other legislative agencies.
Resolutions are not meant to affect or change policy. The action taken by the Council today stoops to the level of political theater.” Corbin said he believes the Council can have a “greater effect using our legislative responsibilities to change funding programs that are not working and to provide funding for those that do work.”
At a time when strong leadership from City Hall is needed in publicly addressing the rising crime rate, Tyler has consistently dodged hard questions about police staffing, continually defended her hand-picked police chief, who is poorly qualified for the position, and failed to aggressively involve other law enforcement agencies including the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office and keeping the Council advised of her actions – which could be done in executive session to maintain needed secrecy.
An example of Tyler’s priorities is the manpower and energy she had her office utilize in pitching to billionaire Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, an arena proposal in hopes of landing a Pelican developmental league basketball team. This effort, which included a pep rally at the newly opened YMCA facility on Preston, culminated in a trip to the Big Easy by Tyler, Chief Administrative Officer Brian Crawford, City Attorney Bradford and Economic Development Director Arlena Acree.
Much of the public crime discussion has centered, and rightly so, on the number of repeat offenders as well as crimes committed by individuals who are out on bond. These factors are, of course, outside the control and purview of SPD. Nonetheless, the continued complaints about police response times and the low visibility of police on patrol have not been addressed by Tyler as well as the understaffing of the police department. Just getting Tyler to acknowledge that crime under her administration has substantially increased has taken a major media effort; this is characteristic of her “I am in control and don’t want or need any one else to help” leadership style that is reflected by the fact that the Council was only informed of the New Orleans “pitch the Pelicans” trip by email on the day of the presentation.
Councilman Corbin correctly notes that “every Council district is affected by crime – directly or indirectly. While many of the homicides have occurred in poorer areas, property crimes have increased in higher income areas. Solving the crime issues will take a larger conversation to include jail space and prosecution, the mayor, the Shreveport Police Department, the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Caddo District Attorney.” Corbin’s suggestion that these individuals/ agencies “lock themselves in a room for a Crime Summit and not come out until they can present a unified plan to the citizens and hit the streets” has substantial merit.
2017 is an election year for the mayor and the Council; Tyler has declined to state if she will seek a second term. It is presumed that the four members of the Council who are not termed out – Bradford, James Flurry, Jerry Bowman and Stephanie Lynch – will run for a second term; Bowman has been mentioned as a potential mayoral candidate. If the election was this fall, there is no doubt that crime would be the major campaign issues. Hopefully, the mayor will provide strong, aggressive leadership in the very near future that will change this reality; her track record to date does not provide much optimism for Shreveport citizens.
John E. Settle Jr. has been a resident of Shreveport since January 1977. His articles appear regularly in local publications. He can be reached at 742- 5513 or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org