SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Shreveport city leaders say the coronavirus outbreak is not only taking a toll on residents’ health, but their safety, too.
Memorial Day 2020 is a day not soon to be forgotten by Dequanis Williams Junior’s family.
“For you not even safe in your own home, it’s crazy,” said his aunt, Shay Rasco.
More than 50 bullets pierced the house on Westover Road. One hit the 10-month old.
“You shot an innocent child,” said Rasco.
Mayor Adrian Perkins said the child’s parents are giving him hope.
“Honestly, they encouraged me,” he said. “They’re happy that their baby boy is having a quick and full recovery.”
City leaders say that attitude is needed now to turn the crime rate around.
“If we’re going to be successful moving forward, if we’re going to avoid a violent summer and rest of the year, we have to work together,” Perkins said.
COVID-19 crippled the area, cutting hundreds of jobs and claiming the lives of more than 160 neighbors.
“That outbreak has changed our lives,” said Perkins. “It’s changed our livelihoods.”
And it changed officers’ policing abilities.
“We have not been able to put some people in jail that otherwise we would have arrested,” said Shreveport Police Chief Ben Raymond. “Even if it’s for a minor offense or one that you would consider non-violent.”
Chief Raymond said that’s left more criminals on the streets contributing to a higher level of crime.
“Even if we’re just responding to misdemeanor-type crimes, that prevents our ability from being proactive and responding to more violent crimes,” he said.
City leaders said they’re making a commitment to the community.
“In order for us to build a strong community, it takes all of us working together,” said Councilwoman Tabitha Taylor. “And, we will work to make sure public safety is not compromised at any expense.”
Right now, they’re looking for funding for 400 body cameras for uniformed officers at a price tag of $2.1 million over five years.
“We do have 90 body cameras at this time, but 90 body cameras doesn’t go very far when you have over 500 police officers,” said Chief Raymond.
Providing police with the tools they need is a priority to help families like Juju’s feel safer.
“I just don’t want my nephew to have to go through that ever again,” said Rasco.
Chief Raymond said the department is also in need of tasers. Those are expected to cost around $800,000.