By Paige Nash
Local pastors, preachers, priests, reverends and other spiritual leaders met Tuesday morning for a Minister’s Breakfast hosted by the City of Minden and Minden Chief of Police Jared McIver to discuss issues the city is currently facing. Among those topics were public safety, drugs and prayer meetings, but one subject took a front seat – gang related issues.
“I know that this is something that has been going on for a while – the gang issues we have had. I want to give you some encouraging news. About two to three weeks ago we received a call from an agency out of Texas.” said McIver.
The agency was inquiring about the “Trained to Step (TTS)” gang because they have been undertaking a growing issue with the gang in Texas recently.
“That is a positive thing,” said McIver. “Not good for Texas, but good for Minden. We have applied a lot of pressure here in the last few months with a lot of arrests and a lot of these gang members are leaving our state and our city.”
McIver also referenced another gang, “Cold Hearted Steppas (CHS)” that began following behind the TTS gang, but the police department has also made several arrests on those members, as well.
Greater Saint Paul Baptist Church’s Pastor Royal Scott Jr. asked the chief if there are any outward or visible signs as far as appearance or clothing that would make it evident to the public that these juveniles are a part of a gang.
“We need to know how we identify them,” said Scott. “Is there something that they wear? How do we identify gang members in the event that they come to our church?”
McIver referenced the Crips and the Bloods – two prominent gangs that wear blue and red.
“Today it is not so much the colors anymore. Identifying them is very difficult,” said McIver. “A lot of the youngsters will get on social media, all the different platforms and post a bunch of videos of them holding guns.”
According to McIver, juvenile crime rates are through the roof and weapon crimes are the most prominent amongst this age group.
Pastor Scott asked how the church body and leaders can be more proactive in reaching these young people before they enter a gang or become a liability to the community.
“To be honest and frank, the majority of the gangs that are taking place- those young people, young men who are being arrested are African American,” said Scott. “We are tired of seeing all of our young men going to jail. We are doing the best that we can, but we need to know what we can do with law enforcement to reduce the numbers.”
McIver made the point that he is aware that the police department plays a major role in being reactive, but establishing programs and continuing to meet and discuss these issues is what is needed to make progress in being more proactive. He stated that the police department has been doing their best to restore trust within the community and have positive interactions with the public, but there is always room for improvement.
With the growing numbers in juvenile crime the parish along with many surrounding parishes have been faced with limited availability when it comes to housing them.
Minden City Judge Sherb Sentell was also in attendance at the breakfast and discussed a new program he is trying to implement to make progress in being more proactive and playing a role in changing the direction of juvenile justice.
For more details on this program and to read about further discussion led by Minden City Judge Sherb Sentell, please read next Tuesday’s Webster Parish Journal.