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Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Budget Amendment Proposed For Crisis

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North Louisiana Crime Lab needs funding

Shreveport City Council is expected to approve a budget amendment to allocate $400,000 to the North Louisiana Crime Lab.

The lab has been supported by court fees in the 29 parishes it serves. But the reduced number of court cases heard during the coronavirus pandemic has left the crime lab with dwindling operating funds.

“This funding is essential right now,” Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins said. “The crime lab is experiencing a significant decrease in revenue. The services that they provide are critical to law enforcement and for the safety of all our citizens.”

Jeremy Jones, director of the crime lab, said the additional funds are critical to the lab’s work.

“This allows us to keep the doors open,” he said. “Right now we are at a significant deficit, and without it we will not be able to continue.”

Perkins announced the proposed budget amendment alongside Jones, City Council Chairman James Green, Councilman Grayson Boucher, Councilwoman Tabatha Taylor and Shreveport Police Chief Wayne Smith on March 8.

“We are doing all we can to ensure the people in our communities are safe,” Perkins said. “This crime lab is instrumental keeping our citizens safe today and into the future.”

Smith said the Shreveport Police Department has submitted 1,200 cases to the crime lab for examination in the past year. He said data from the crime lab led to the recent arrest of a suspect in a string of catalytic converter thefts.

“I am excited about the opportunity to partner with the crime lab,” Smith said. “I had the opportunity to take a tour of the building. Our current facility at the police department is pretty dilapidated and in need of repair. In the coming year, that entire structure will be going away. I am looking forward to bringing our people to be housed here in this crime lab.”

The $400,000 will come from the city’s operating reserve in the general fund budget. Perkins said this kind of situation is the reason for having the operating reserve. He added that not supporting the lab would hinder solving crime in the city.

“Emergencies happen,” Perkins said. “As soon as we found out about the crime lab situation, we understood that it would triple the amount of time it would take us to solve crime if we have to ship evidence to southern Louisiana or outside the state.”

Boucher said the budget amendment has bipartisan support ahead of the final vote.

“I appreciate the mayor and the administration bringing this to the council,” Boucher said. “I think we all can agree crime has no party affiliation, no race affiliation. It’s just about the citizens of Shreveport. I can’t think of a better way than to spend the money than to invest it in the crime lab. We have a gem right in the heart of Shreveport. We need to make sure it’s funded. We need to make sure it’s taken care of.”

Jones said the crime lab’s continued operation is a matter of public safety, independent of politics.

“Forensic science is important to our community,” he said. “The work that our 35 employees do for the northern 29 parishes is extremely important. It’s important for justice and truth. We do not work for the prosecution or the defense. We represent science.”

The city’s proposed contribution is only part of the solution. Jones said the lab still needs more than $4 million by July. He said DeSoto Parish has committed $100,000 in support, and the lab is waiting to hear from the other parishes it serves. Jones also said the state legislative session is expected to add an additional $1 million.

Perkins said a team approach is necessary to ensure the lab’s ongoing success.

“We have been experiencing an unprecedented surge in violent crime, across the nation and right here at home,” he said. “Partnerships are critical to seek an end to this kind of violence.”

Jones said he and other officials involved want to seek a better long-term solution for the crime lab’s operating expenses. Still, he is grateful for the support to resolve the shortterm, immediate crisis.

“This process has encouraged me significantly in our elected leaders here in northwest Louisiana,” Jones said.

The budget amendment is scheduled to go before the city council for final approval on March 22.

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