SHREVEPORT, La. – After a violent February, Shreveport Police Chief Ben Raymond said 2020 was on track to have the highest crime level in several years.
WEB EXTRA - Behind the crime stats during the pandemic
"When you looked at that particular month, compared to last five years, we had two or three times as many homicides," Raymond said.
In March, as the coronavirus case count rose in Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards ordered many businesses to close and issued a stay-at-home order for nonessential workers. That’s when crime rates started to go down in Shreveport.
In February, violent crime was up 5% and property crime was up 1%, compared to February 2019.
In March, violent crime was up 3% over the previous year, and property crime was down 2%.
Then in April, violent crime was down 6% and property crime was down 2% from the year before.
Raymond believes the decrease in crime was due to the stay-at-home order.
"Obviously people were stuck at the house. So if you're stuck at home, you're going to be at home watching your property. So you're probably going to have fewer property crimes," Raymond said, also pointing toward federal stimulus money as a possible reason for the decrease. “The government provided money to a lot of people that maybe otherwise would not have had that amount of funding. It possibly prevented them from needing to commit crime."
Homicides also decreased during March and April; with one and three homicides, respectively.
February alone saw nine homicides. There have been 18 total in Shreveport in 2020, according to Raymond.
But as the stay-at-home order relaxed in early May and expired on May 15, things seemingly took a more violent turn. According to KTBS archives, police responded to at least 16 shootings so far this month. Not all of those incidents were deadly.
Not all of them were deadly -- including this one .... that injured this 10-month-old boy.
"We just got to get out of here. We've got to, because you never know what might happen again,” said Shay Rasco, whose 10-month-old nephew was wounded by gunfire Monday night. “People are crazy these days, and it's just like -- it's like they don't care no more."
As crime in Shreveport was down in 2018 and 2019 compared to previous years, Raymond remains unsure about why crime was increasing in 2020 prior to the public health crisis.
“Our numbers got well out of proportion before we even entered the COVID-19 phase, and it's really hard to say exactly what the cause of that is," Raymond said.
As Louisianans begin to venture out of their homes and back to stores, restaurants and other businesses, Raymond hopes to apply some of the lessons learned from the pandemic to keep future crime rates more on par with March and April’s levels.
Raymond pointed to the rate of officer-initiated calls, as opposed to citizen-initiated calls, as a sign of improvement.
According to Raymond, officer-initiated calls during the second week of May were up 39% compared to the same week last year.
“It tells me that when officers have time, they're more proactive,” Raymond said. “That's why it's key to have, you know, plenty of officers on patrol, because if we don't have to respond to calls for service, we can do a better job of preventing crime."
Raymond also discussed some challenges moving forward.
He said recruiting new officers remains an issue, as it has for several years, but the department is still holding academy, pointing out that social distancing during the training has been easy because there are only 10 cadets.
When asked about proposed budget cuts that would remove millions of dollars from the police department’s budget, Raymond said he believes the cuts would impact morale more than anything else, explaining that the cuts would not affect operations.
“The fact is, we can't hire officers we have money for,” Raymond said.
Click here to see the full crime comparison reports from the Shreveport Police Department.