Civic group seeks answers to modern issues

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Nathan Wilson | Reporter
Civic leader J.W. Scarborough sees an answer to modern issues in one of Natchitoches’ storied institutions. His goal is to restore the Natchitoches Parish Voters and Civic League to the stature it had under the late Ben D. Johnson.
Once a kingmaker in local elections, Scarborough envisions the organization playing the role of a community voting bloc in Natchitoches and as an advocate in Baton Rouge.
The meeting featured Chief of Police Nikeo Collins as guest speaker. He highlighted the city’s recent progress against crime, noting that the city is approaching two months without a victim injured by gun violence after a period of intense violent crime early in the year.
Collins credited the city’s violent crime task force with the immediate reduction in violence, but noted the need for a sustained effort. To reduce crime, he said the police department is targeting “bad actors” within the community who make the city unsafe for all residents. He indicated the city has implemented a new Auxiliary Street Patrol (ASP) to increase police presence.

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Collins pointed out the need to properly train and compensate police officers to achieve a quality police force. “We produce top-notch individuals. The only thing is how do we keep them here?” he asked. “They can go start at the state police at $60,000 and I start my officers at $28,000.” He indicated his department is exploring opportunities to increase pay without raising taxes. He also stated his commitment to ensuring that officers are properly trained for responding to and investigating crime. “Our personnel need to be trained and they need to respond in a professional manner,” he said.
Collins emphasized the need to build a culture of trust and cooperation between police officers and residents. He stated that the goal of the City Police is to ensure that witnesses of crime feel safe communicating with law enforcement to secure convictions. “We can do a whole lot more working together (and) working as a team,” he said.
Collins ended by directly addressing concerns citizens have when interacting with City Police. He noted that residents have expressed confusion about how to enter the dispatch station on Amulet Street to file a report. He stated that residents only need to approach the doors of the station to be acknowledged by department staff who monitor the entrance via cctv cameras. He also reminded attendees that CrimeStoppers allows residents to report crime anonymously and that he encourages the community to contact the police about suspicious behavior.
Scarborough provided each attendee with a list of bills recently introduced in the U.S. Congress and asked members to rally around their passage. Scarborough placed special emphasis on H.R.350, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2022,which narrowly passed the house in the wake of a mass shooting in Buffalo before failing in a tied vote in the U.S. Senate. He lamented the racial motivations behind the attack on shoppers, and expressed the need to place pressure on Louisiana legislators who voted against the bill.
Scarborough urged the audience to become members by paying annual dues of $10. He also introduced his vision for a capital campaign to construct a meeting hall for the organization with funding from a television raffle and urged members to offer one-time pledges of $100.
Mayor Ronnie Williams Jr. provided information about the mentorship programs available to city youth through organizations like the Boys and Girls Club. He also promoted residents of the City’s planned Juneteenth celebrations.
Scarborough reminded the audience the next Voters and Civic League meeting will be July 12. He has invited several guest speakers including State Senator Louie Bernard and Clerk of Court David Stamey.