SHREVEPORT, Louisiana – In a significant move towards enhancing public safety, Shreveport city and police officials are set to launch the city’s first police substation. This initiative comes at a time when the Shreveport Police Department (SPD) faces increasing response times and staffing shortages.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new substation, scheduled for today (November 16, 2023) at noon, signifies a collaborative effort between the Shreveport Police Department and the North Shreveport Business Association. The Association has donated a 2.5-acre tract, formerly the Moran Galvanizing plant, for the substation on North Market Street.
Chief Wayne Smith emphasizes that the substation represents a deeper commitment to community safety and engagement. It will offer a direct line of assistance to residents, fostering proactive public safety measures. Additionally, the site will host a satellite location for the Northwest Family Justice Center, providing essential support for domestic violence victims.
This development is part of a larger $70 million bond issue passed in 2021 for public safety projects, which included $5 million for the construction of three police substations. Mayor Tom Arceneaux indicates that cost projections for the first two substations are underway, with decisions on the third pending based on available funds.
However, the SPD faces a critical challenge: staffing shortages. Despite the bond issue’s focus on expanding police infrastructure, the department’s dwindling personnel numbers raise concerns about its capacity to effectively operate these new facilities. The SPD has seen a significant reduction in officers, with current strength at less than an estimated 74% of its total allocated positions. This rapid decrease in sworn officers has led to increased response times for various emergencies, and has been the driving factor behind discussions to end or drastically change quality of life events like the annual Mardi Gras parades.
A KTBS 3 News investigation into SPD’s response times from May 2019 to May 2023 revealed a concerning trend. High-priority calls like shots fired or shootings maintain relatively stable response times, but lower-priority incidents such as burglaries and minor accidents have seen marked increases. For instance, burglary response times have almost doubled from under five minutes in 2019 to over eight minutes in 2023.
Chief Smith acknowledges these challenges, noting the strain on the workforce with many officers working double shifts and forgoing vacations. The department has also adapted its operations, pulling officers from adjacent districts to manage calls efficiently under current conditions.
The inauguration of Shreveport’s first police substation marks a proactive step towards strengthening community policing and public safety. However, this development occurs amidst significant staffing challenges that affect response times and operational efficiency. The SPD’s commitment to public safety remains steadfast, even as it navigates these complexities.