One challenger in Saturday’s city elections in Bossier City wants the public to know that city emperors running for reelection have no clothes on the issue of public safety and crime. And the data back him.
If you can get past the imagery of Republican incumbent Mayor Lo Walker without a stitch on – he’s 87 years old – consider that he and other incumbents running to keep their jobs, including at-large councilors Tim Larkin and David Montgomery and District 1 councilor Scott Irwin, all Republicans, to varying degrees tout the city’s supposedly low crime rate due to their policies. Some publicize endorsements netted from the parish’s chief law enforcement office and another political insider, GOP Sheriff Julian Whittington.
Chris Smith begs to differ. The Republican challenger to Larkin and Montgomery, through flyers and social media, points out some facts inconvenient to that argument. Using data from city financial information and crime data reported to the federal government, he points out that in 2008 the city had 241 police department employees or one for every 259 residents, while in 2019 the number had fallen to 197, or one for every 350 residents. It’s a point Walker challenger Republican Tommy Chandler also makes.
Smith goes further, noting that the property crime incidents went from 2,721 in 2008 to 3,225 in 2019. That’s a per capita increase of 11 percent, from 4,354 per hundred thousand to 4,671.
And when viewed in comparative perspective to the foil by which Bossier City politicians love to measure all city achievements, Shreveport, the news for the incumbents is grimmer. In those same years, the per hundred thousand statistics there for those crimes fell from 5,291 to 4,899. Not only did that rate fall across the river while rising in Bossier City, the figures now almost are at parity.
Worse for the narratives of Walker, Larkin, Montgomery, and Irwin, in 2019 the violent crime rate in Shreveport was 780 per hundred thousand, while in Bossier City it was 791. Even as those rates fell a bit over the previous decade, the fact is in 2019 more violent crime occurred per capita in Bossier City than in Shreveport.
Worst of all, bang for the buck seems on the decline for police spending. In 2010 – the year after Larkin and Montgomery faced their last challenged reelection – the city spent $16.6 million on policing, for a per capita expense of $270, while in 2019 it expended $19.6 million or $284 per capita. Despite slightly higher per capita spending, the per hundred thousand violent crime rate in that span went from 651 to 791, and the rate for property crimes went from 4,361 to 4,671. Even as the city increased spending by $3 million in this span, the number of police employees fell from 211 to 197 and as a result the number of patrol units dropped from 202 to 187.
As a final comparative measure, nationally from 2010 to 2019 the violent crime rate per hundred thousand fell from 404.5 to 379.4, and the property crime rate from 2,945.9 to 2,109.9. In Louisiana, the rates respectively went from 555.3 to 549.3 and 3,644.8 to 3,162.0. As the lower crime rates both in the state and nationally dropped, they rose in Bossier City.
The image of Bossier City as a relatively safe haven from crime is a myth, and the likes of Walker, Larkin, Montgomery, and Irwin trying to take credit for the myth and improving on it is a false narrative. By every measure, over the past decade as police resources atrophied under their management with only Irwin facing any electoral challenges in that time, not only is there more crime in Bossier City, but also it remains more crime-ridden than Louisiana or the country, and it even has a worse violent crime rate than Shreveport. If these incumbents and the other unchallenged councilors – independent Jeff Darby, Democrat Bubba Williams, and Republican Jeff Free (who entered office in 2013) – aren’t responsible for this, then who is?