he beginning of a new year is often a time of hope and promise, the possibility of better things to come. As citizens of Shreveport celebrated the start of 2023, how many of us hoped that this year would see less of the violence and crime that seems to have overtaken our hometown? But, when the first homicide of 2023 occurred only two days into the new year, the familiar feeling of cynicism shortly followed. And we find ourselves asking the question again: Is there anything that can be done to combat Shreveport's crime problem?
The answer is yes, according to Shreveport Citizens United (SCU), a local grassroots organization with a singular focus – to reduce crime and violence in the city of Shreveport by establishing cooperative relationships between citizens, civic leaders, and non-profits. SCU hosted a luncheon on Jan. 5 at Silver Star Grille as a starting point to introduce its mission to interested people. The response was a standing-room-only event that included local business leaders, city council members, pastors, non-profit directors, media personalities, and residents who were all invested in seeing a change in the direction Shreveport is headed.
Local businessman Michael Riordan, a Shreveport native and the founder of SCU, detailed the mission of the organization and the urgent need for change. “I think we’ve all witnessed the heartbreaking, tragic escalation of crime and violence in our city,” Riordan said in his opening remarks. “It’s not something that many of us want to live in. There’s a lot of people that are moving out of our city. There’s a lot of people that are fed up for a lot of different reasons. But I think the big thing is – it’s going to take what we can do collectively to bring a solution.”
The collective solution that SCU aims to deliver includes an approach that addresses crime on two fronts – tackling the criminal activity that is already happening and stopping criminal behavior before it begins. To do so will require more than just policing. It will require addressing the foundational needs of the community, including education and vocational training for young people at risk, employment opportunities that pay a living wage, and safe environments for families and children to live in.
The plan outlined for SCU includes utilizing teams of citizens who will go out into the community to assess the needs and challenges of the city’s most at-risk population, while also establishing relationships with local elected officials, law enforcement, and non-profit agencies to create opportunities for meeting those needs.
The SCU luncheon attendees were supportive in their remarks for SCU, and several mentioned the collaborative approach as the element that could make it a game changer for the city. Tommy Williams, president of Williams Financial Advisors, has served on the boards of several non-profits over the years. “This city is full of silos,” he said. “We have a lot of collaboration problems. You could name a lot of people who are movers and shakers in this town, but they have gotten sideways with this group or that group. And that’s the sort of thing that keeps these kinds of initiatives from taking off. Everybody knows Shreveport is deteriorating. We’ve got a new mayor, we’ve got a new year, and I think maybe some positive things can happen from this. And to the extent that I could make a difference in that, then I’m willing to do so.”
It is that kind of individual, civic-minded focus that Shreveport Citizens United is counting on to make much-needed changes in our city. “We’re not going to let it fall on our non-profits,” Riordan said. “We’re not going to expect it from our civic leaders alone. We’re going to collectively, as a city, make a decision that we’re going to come together and come up with solutions.”
For more information on Shreveport Citizens United and how you can get involved, visit join.shrevecu.org.