SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins held a news conference Friday afternoon along with the interim police chief and other city leaders to address the ongoing surge of violent crime in the city.

Interim Police Chief Wayne Smith and City Council Chairman James Flurry joined Perkins for the 2:30 p.m. news conference to discuss public safety, according to an advisory from the mayor’s office Thursday afternoon.

Mayor Perkins started his speech naming the young lives lost to gun violence.

“Just this year we have lost six children to gun violence in Shreveport. Public safety impacts each and every one of our lives, right now with our young people being cut down far too early. And gunshots ringing out in the middle of days our citizens are being terrorized. So we owe it to continue to remind our citizens that we are going to fight for them each and every day,” he said.

View the full news conference below.

Mayor Perkins held a discussion about giving all of Shreveport Police officers more money. Right now the department is down 100 officers.

The money set aside for those open positions… will be given to current officers. He hopes this initiative will help recruit officers and help them take back control of the streets.

Interim police chief Wayne Smith said the department has purchased more than 80 police cars to get more officers on the street. He said starting September 19th people can expect to see more officers on the street.

He said community policing is also one of their biggest priorities.

As of September 9, 64 homicides have been reported in Shreveport; just shy of the 66 recorded in 2020.

Friday’s news conference follows a lengthening stretch of violent crime in the city, particularly among young people. Rolling shootouts involving both suspects and victims aged 17 and under have renewed calls for swift action and prompted a conversation about juvenile curfew laws and whether they are being enforced.

It also comes two weeks after Shreveport Police Chief Ben Raymond stepped down amid criticism, followed by the appointment of Asst. Chief Wayne Smith as interim chief.

The police department has struggled to recruit and keep officers amid a national pandemic and anti-law enforcement sentiment that grew louder as protests were held locally and across the country in the wake of several high-profile in-custody deaths of Black men and women.

In May, a news conference called by city leaders to talk about addressing gun violence meant to be about bringing members of the community together to find a solution was met with criticism that the latest response is just more talk and still not enough action.

At the time of that May 4 news conference, there had been 32 homicides reported in the city, a number that has nearly doubled in the three months since.

One day before the announcement of Raymond’s voluntary reassignment back to the rank of Sergeant in the police department’s patrol division, Shreveport City Council members Jerry Bowman and Levette Fuller were set to call on the council to hold a vote of no confidence in Raymond, citing the police department’s understaffing and recruiting issues, failure to improve crime rates, and the rise in homicide and violent crimes.

Public safety dominated discussions at a series of town halls the mayor held over the summer around the city seeking input on how $48 million on federal relief funds coming to Shreveport should be spent.

According to another statement released by Mayor Perkins’ office Thursday evening, the city has received $24,120,169 its first payment of that American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, and public safety tops the list of spending priorites.

“$13 million has been allocated for public safety. The Shreveport Police Department and Shreveport Fire Department will each receive $6.5 million. SPD will utilize those funds to provide take home vehicles to 185 officers who live within the city limits. Jail upgrades, crime scene vehicles, additional body cameras, radar equipment and new firearms will be funded for police. The fire department will be able to purchase new fire apparatuses, medic units, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) suits, bunker gear and CPR devices.”

The ARPA funding comes from Shreveport’s share of $1.7 billion in local relief for Louisiana cities, parishes, and towns. A second payment will be issued next year for a total of $48,240,338.