By: Pat Austin
Living in Shreveport these days is turning into some kind of twisted, dystopian experience. It feels like those opening pages of Atlas Shrugged, where everything is gray, gloom, dying, oppressed. It is no exaggeration to note that shootings occur every single day in this city, sometimes multiple times, and often with injuries or fatalities. It is tragic anytime a life is lost to this senseless violence, but it seems even more so when an innocent life, or a beautiful child, is lost.
And we accept this.
On March 20, 2021, five-year old Mya Patel was killed when she was hit by a stray bullet.
Wednesday, March 24, social media reflected multiple audio recordings of shots fired early in the evening, shots I heard clearly while reading in my bedroom.
March 30, a woman a few blocks from me was shot in the hip; luckily she is okay.
March 31, Xavier Griffin, 19 years old, shot and killed.
April 2, one was killed and others injured in multiple shootings.
Last night a woman was shot in the chest in the parking lot of the Masonic Lodge.
It is literally every single day or night – doesn’t matter what time — and we are doing nothing about this. You can check the Caddo 911 Active Emergency Events page and almost every single time you’ll see a shots fired or a shootings call, and those don’t include the ones that never make it to the page or are “holding,” waiting for available officers.
We are doing nothing about it.
“But, what can we do?!” I hear you. I don’t have those answers. My layman’s opinion would be to first work through the local elections process to elect leaders tough on crime, willing to enforce penalties on criminals. From the mayor, to the District Attorney, to the city council and the parish commission, we need support.
We need police officers and the money to pay them. Shreveport ranks woefully low in police pay and our officers do not stay. We need the best and the brightest, willing to work hard for good pay.
We need jobs. We need businesses to come here to grow the tax base and to provide employment. We need all levels of jobs, from the trades to the administrative. We can’t continue to depend simply on service industry jobs as our main employers.
Businesses won’t come without decent infrastructure. Our streets are literally crumbling, our water system is collapsing (not to mention their mismanaged billing practices), and the city is covered in trash, litter, and empty buildings.
We need a vibrant downtown. The downtown area is trying: there are some places to eat, a few renovated buildings for apartments, you can see a movie, look at buildings. Many people avoid downtown due to safety issues. Maybe we need bicycle or mounted units there. Maybe we need more options for our large homeless population on the streets there.
We need so many things. Old time Shreveporters often speak of the “good ol’ days” when we had sports teams like The Shreveport Captains, where families could go enjoy a game on a pretty afternoon or evening. Now, our baseball stadium is empty, crumbling, and filled with bats and toxic guano.
For the most part, unless you want to drink or gamble, there is not much for families to do here. There are a few things…SciPort is downtown, and the Aquarium.
Before anything else happens, safety has got to be addressed. Perhaps I am alone in my concern. Perhaps I am in the minority when I balk at going to Betty Virginia Park to walk or spend an afternoon outside. Maybe I’m the only one who is constantly on guard when I walk my neighborhood. Maybe nobody else has started taking their dogs out at night earlier, or in the backyard rather than the front yard. Maybe nobody else has installed surveillance cameras around their home. Maybe I’m the only one much more cautious about locking their car at night. Maybe nobody else has had packages stolen off their front porch.
Maybe all this is just my perception.
I long to see a thriving Shreveport with businesses like when we had Western Electric, General Motors, Kast Metals, Libby Glass, Poulan WeedEater, to name a few. The Captains played baseball in their new stadium and people sat in the beer garden eating hot dogs and sipping nickel beer. New malls and shopping centers dotted the city, and parks were growing. People ate at local restaurants, like Sansone’s, Brocato’s, Abe’s, Monsour’s, The Centenary Oyster House, George’s, and Fertitta’s, to name a few. Downtown was bustling with department stores like Selber’s, Hearne’s, Rubensteins, and Palais Royal. You could grab lunch at a nice, fancy place downtown or a quick, inexpensive burger place. You felt safe. You could park in the Selber’s parking garage and not worry about your car or about getting panhandled or mugged. Shreve Square was hopping on weekend nights: great bands in multiple clubs, people walking between them, great restaurants, good times.
We could reminisce about the glory days forever, and everybody knows times change and nothing stays the same, but the truth is, other cities adapt better than we have. When you travel, when you leave the city and see other places, even places within say a three hour radius, it is stunning to see the difference.
It’s possible to have a clean city with happy people. But Shreveport feels like a city with a cloud of gloom over it. We can talk it up and pretend to be positive. I know people will jump on me and say that it’s the negative people like me that keeps it down. “If you hate it here so much, why don’t you leave!?” I’ve heard it.
The answer is I’d like to be part of a solution, not stick my head in the sand and pretend like it’s great. It’s not great. Listen to that gunfire every night and tell me how great that is.
So. What’s the solution. What do we do? Is this a nationwide problem or is it unique to Shreveport, to Louisiana, to cities with inept political leaders? The city, like so many others across the nation, is decaying from the inside out. I’ve lived in my home for almost forty years and now I wonder if I’ll even be able to sell it when I finally decide to get out of here. And we live in one of the better neighborhoods; it’s an older neighborhood, but has always been considered a good one.
Now? I’m ready to pull the plug.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.