Chief Nikeo Collins shares a response to concerned citizens regarding recent criminal activity and explains the background that has led us to the current state of crime in the City of Natchitoches
I appreciate you reaching out and sharing your concerns regarding the increase in violence and criminal activity that is affecting our City and Nation. Natchitoches is not alone in seeing crimes involving gun violence, burglaries, and thefts increase over the past several years.
I want to address your immediate concern about the St. Maurice and E. Fifth St area of Natchitoches. Our investigators are working the case that resulted in the two shootings and are attempting to make arrests concerning this matter. They are working with the information they have been provided by witnesses and what they have developed.
It is unfortunate that one of the victims did not want to assist law enforcement in finding the suspects that shot at him but this is nothing new to our officers. There is a shift in the mentality of victims who choose not to provide names and information concerning incidents of violence. They do not want to help law enforcement because they feel that they are “snitching” and they would prefer to take actions into their own hands. This is a dangerous mindset and usually exacerbates the situation.
An eye for an eye will leave everyone blind.
Our department has made multiple arrests of suspects purporting to be victims after they had discharged firearms at subjects claiming self-defense but failed to take the normal steps of calling the Police. For every gun that is discharged in the city there is a potential for someone innocent to be injured or worse. There was an arrest made just this weekend at the Chevron on University Parkway. Fortunately, no one was injured.
The current dilemma with having only 5-6 people on patrol means you on average have an officer responsible for covering 4.38 square miles. This area spans a large area and results in units being spread out from Wal-mart to I-49 Business. We have local businesses at I-49 and Downtown that request for our limited number of units to stay in the locations to attempt to prevent vehicles from being burglarized and to deter crime. This unfortunately is not possible because they have had shootings and burglaries in the areas of E. 5th, Whitfield, St. Clair, St. Maurice., etc. Other areas in West Natchitoches and South Natchitoches experience crimes as well.
One has to keep in mind that if there are only 5-6 units patrolling during a 12-hour period of time they are answering calls for service. As of October 31, 2022 our officers have responded to 22,593 calls for service. Each call that these officers respond to prevents them from patrolling in the areas that are affected. There are times due to the serious nature of the call for service that all units are tied up.
Whenever shots fired calls are received our officers usually respond to the area in the event the shooter is still active or there is a need to setup a perimeter. We were prompted by some citizens that some calls of shots fired were being called in on purpose as to distract law enforcement from areas that are vulnerable to burglaries. We attempt to maximize coverage to effectively cover the areas of town.
We have requested on numerous occasions for the assistance of citizens to call in suspicious activity because this allows patrol to be able to respond to an area and address a possible incident. The term of “see something say something” is an effective approach. Efforts need to be directed.
Currently due to the low staffing numbers patrol officers tend to be in a reactive mode because they are responding from one call to another call. I have seen officers go to two calls requiring offense reports and then catch an accident. If they get a short break in between answering calls they have to prepare the reports which are all typed and sent in electronically to be checked.
Our 7 Investigators attempt to keep up with the numerous offense reports that come in daily. They attempt to call complainants and collect additional evidence that might not have been available at the time of the original call. They canvas the areas and try to obtain video surveillance if available. Currently we have three brand new investigators that replaced the 3 employees who went to the LSP in August for their 14-week academy. These new investigators have had to literally hit the ground running and take on all of the existing cases, train as investigators, and process all new cases coming in.
It is a never-ending task because even though they make arrest daily there is always someone else that has not received a resolution to their case. These investigators also conduct burglary details in which they come out and canvas areas that have been subject to burglaries. Due to the manpower shortage these details are scheduled to optimize their times.
From March – July we conducted a series of details geared at stemming crime. Off duty officers worked ASP (Additional Street Patrol) in 6-man teams interdicting criminal activities. Officers worked 49 details and were able to make several arrests, issue tickets, and reduce the number of calls. The drawback to the ASP team was that it required officers/investigators to work OT in addition to their regular shifts. In the period of time approximately $33,000+ was expended in grant funding. The personnel, who cannot exceed 18 hours of work in a 24-hour cycle, were getting burned out.
I noted that of the personnel working this selective enforcement detail 8 of them moved on to other enforcement jobs where additional shifts were not required. We also conducted VCAT (Violent Crimes Apprehension Team) operations. These were the operations that had the helicopters flying all over Natchitoches and we had several law enforcement agencies working on targeting violent offenders in these areas. This team is comprised of FBI, ATF, DEA, LSP, NPD, NPSO, U.S. Marshals, Rapides SO, APD, Sabine SO, and Grant SO. This team is still in operation and conducting investigations into our violent offenders in the CenLA Area including Natchitoches. These law enforcement entities are part of this unit to pool resources and manpower in an attempt to get the violent suspects off the street.