Sheriff, city leaders question citizens’ concern for violence

DERON TALLEY @DeRonTalley

After a string of shootings in consecutive months in Donaldsonville the Ascension Sheriff’s Department and City Officials have strung together to get the violence in check; however both sides are wondering where is the “rage from the people.”

Sheriff Jeff Wiley spoke to the Donaldsonville Mayor and City Council at a April 14 meeting at City Hall and said he recognizes Donaldsonville is a “special needs community right now.”

But the Sheriff said if there would happen to be a situation in Donaldsonville or Ascension Parish similar to what happened in Ferguson there would be much outrage stemmed from that – referring to police shooting citizens.

“But what I’m missing is that same level of outrage from the community about a nine-year-old that’s shot in his house, or about a 15-year-old that’s murdered. I don’t hear that,” Sheriff Wiley said. “But if a deputy stubbed his or her toe once there would be a cry throughout this community about what did that deputy do. I get that. But what I don’t get is why isn’t there the same level of outrage with what’s going on now.”

Since January, there have been five separate shootings that have occurred in the city limits of Donaldsonville that have led to three homicides, including one double-homicide: one APSO deputy was wounded after gunfire, a teenager was wounded, a double homicide, a single homicide and the nine-year-old victimized on April 1. Arrests have been made in the teenager shooting, the deputy shooting, and the single homicide, however the double-homicide is still under investigation as of April 2 and the April 1 shooting is under investigation as well.

Sheriff Wiley said it should be a call to action on real tough stances that not just a Sheriff, but city leaders and community leaders should be a part of.

“At some point I’m looking for some outrage to be manifested in the neighborhoods where it’s going on,” Sheriff Wiley said.

“If we had more people pissed off about what’s going on here and manifested that and some kind of call to action it might just give other people some cover,” Sheriff Wiley said. “I’ll be part of it, but at some point the call of action has to be from this community and I’m not dodging my responsibility. I am part of this responsibility. I’m not hearing the people say I’ve had enough.”

Donaldsonville City Councilman for District 4 Rev. Charles Brown, Sr. said there truly seems to be a disconnect between the people and the leaders. Councilman Brown said he agrees with the Sheriff and wants to see the rage because, “it happens here and nobody says anything. The community doesn’t cry out.”

“We need to find a way to connect to the community as a whole. We need to stand together as a whole,” Councilman Brown said. “We’re backing the Sheriff and what they are doing because we want our community back.”

Councilman Brown said the city has seen its fair share of crime in the community and the families of victims are still devastated.

“They have night out against crime in Gonzales, so I think we need to establish that here so they know we are coming together and are here to protect them,” Councilman Brown said.

Sheriff Wiley also believes the judicial system needs to step in and make sure the criminals are able to easily return to the streets. He asks the public to call upon “our judicial system that when these people are caught with guns and drugs that they do what they can to remove them from the community for significant periods of time.”

“I have no sympathy or sensitivity for these types of people,” Sheriff Wiley said.

Councilman Brown asked what could the city council do to make sure criminals get a certain amount of time.

“If they are going in and out like a revolving door, that’s what we need to do something about and join forces with [the Sheriff] and make sure our community is taken back and knows we aren’t tolerating crime,” Councilman Brown said.

INCREASED PRESENCE

The Sheriff said the department has increased its police presence in the key areas of crime in the city, and the city council and mayor have noticed it.

District 3 Councilman Reginald Francis said he sees the police presence in his area, but “we’ll tighten down on one area and then it’ll pop up in another area.”

“The action is moving from place to place,” Councilman Francis said.

District 1 Councilman Lauthaught Delaney said in certain areas just the police presence makes a difference and “that’s what we need to see more.”

“Instead of the guys all parking in one area to do paperwork just go in those areas in need and do the paperwork there,” Delaney said. “That presence makes a big difference.”

To increase the policing presence more, the Sheriff’s Department is looking to move to the south side of the city in the former West Ascension Elementary facility and also to the west side of the city in a former parish health unit facility. The Sheriff believes having those two locations for use will benefit and put the deputies in the center of where the crime occurs.

“The presence at these locations will be for deputies to establish a presence in these areas that will be reassuring for the folks that are sick and tired of being sick and tied and scared to go out,” Sheriff Wiley said.

FUNDING NOT A CONCERN

With the increased crime has caused an increase presence of policing and staffing from the Sheriff’s Department, but Sheriff Wiley assured he is not asking the city for any money as the city is in a special need right now.

“We recognize this is a special needs community right now. It just is,” Sheriff Wiley said. “Anybody who thinks otherwise needs to spend a day with us.”

Councilman Brown said he thinks if it’s something that’s going to cost to city more to protect the citizens then the two sides need to sit down and talk about it.

“If we don’t have that presence they won’t stop. If it makes us safer and protected then we need to discuss it at some point,” Councilman Brown said. “No matter what.”

The Sheriff also iterated there are still safe streets and safe neighborhoods and there are still people who feel safe in their homes; but there are some who don’t and when they don’t “we have failed.”

“Our job is to instill safety and be there to serve and protect,” Sheriff Wiley said. “The commitment will continue. We’re going to do it hard and consistent.”

“We are going to staff up here and take it to the criminals and work with the District Attorney’s system,” Sheriff Wiley said. “I want all of us to take definitive action.”

The Sheriff said they are really pushing crimestoppers – the anonymous tip line that has rewards – to draw cooperation from the public.

He said there are people who know things who can help the department and he understands the fear part of it.

“There is a responsibility by all of us to embrace the notion of safe streets,” Sheriff Wiley said. “And we have people with people living in their homes who are drug dealers and they know it. They condone it by inactivity.”

“They have night out against crime in Gonzales, so I think we need to establish that here so they know we are coming together and are here to protect them,” Councilman Brown said.