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Lack of transparency on crime, City of Alexandria struggles to fulfill public information requests

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 7:44 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2021 at 9:43 AM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The City of Alexandria is in the middle of a record-breaking year for crime, but KALB is getting less information on incidents that happen.

Following Alexandria Mayor Jeff Hall’s State of the Community update, the mayor was questioned about the lack of transparency that KALB has experienced when trying to find more information about crimes occurring in the city.

When asked if all shootings get reported, Mayor Hall said, “I don’t know about being reported, but I do know that we will be transparent. We are going to deliver everything we possibly can to the public, especially if the public has the right to know or need to know as far as their safety is concerned.”

However, through a new policy put in place by Mayor Hall, the Alexandria Police Department now rarely provides information directly to KALB unlike in the past. To receive information, KALB now has to go through the City of Alexandria and not the police department.

Since then, public records requests on shootings and other crimes have had to be sent to the city’s Special Projects Coordinator, Jim Smilie, for information. More recently, it has taken weeks or more, if at all, to get answers to the requests.

When the requests aren’t answered, it leaves the public in the dark on what exactly is going on in the city. One example of this is a recent shooting on N. MacArthur Dr. On Aug. 2, KALB received messages about a police presence on N. MacArthur Dr. at the Alexandria Pawn Shop.

After reaching out to the city for more information, Smilie responded with, “I can confirm APD is investigating an incident that occurred there. It’s an active investigation, and I don’t have any more details at this time.”

The following day, after not hearing any more information, KALB asked APD Police Chief Ronney Howard during the ‘Save Our City’ crime series about the shooting, which he confirmed was true. He also said an arrest was made in that incident and that information should have been released to the public. However, a records request was sent on Aug. 9 that asked for all of the shootings from the previous week, which would have included this shooting at Alexandria Pawn, but no information has yet to be provided.

However, the lack of transparency concerns doesn’t stop there as it’s not only limited information, but sometimes when the public records requests are fulfilled, the information is wrong. An example of this is the shooting that occurred on July 29 on Broadway Ave.

Over the course of the next 24 hours following the incident, KALB made eight separate attempts to contact city officials for more information, including Mayor Hall, but nearly three weeks later, no more details have been provided.

KALB was only able to initially confirm that one person had been shot and another had been arrested through District 3 Councilwoman Cynthia Perry. The victim later died. The first person arrested in connection with this shooting was Trevon Smith and since then, three other suspects have been taken into custody.

On July 31, 20-year-old Joseph Richardson was arrested, On Aug. 2, 22-year-old Dayshawn Reed was arrested in connection with the shooting, and on Aug. 12, 20-year-old Fredrick Batiste was taken into custody.

There is still some confusion about what the City has said about the shooting on Broadway Ave. On August 2, a public records request was sent asking for all the shootings from the previous week including the incident on Broadway Ave. It was a week later, this the chart below was sent to KALB

(KALB)

This chart lists Trevon Smith, Joseph Richardson and Fredrick Batiste as suspects in the shooting. However, the third person arrested in connection to the shooting, Dayshawn Reed, was left off the list.

Another issue is, when KALB received this information on Aug. 9, Fredrick Batiste had not been arrested. He was still out on the streets. Three days later, on Thursday, the Alexandria Police Department posted Batiste as a wanted person. This raises the question of if his name was shared with KALB by the City, why did they wait three days to post that he was wanted?

Once again, another records request was sent to Smilie on this, but a response has not been provided. Mayor Hall was asked about this shooting incident after his community update.

“I’m not familiar with the specifics that are being asked,” said Mayor Hall. “As I said before, we are going to get all the information and we should have everything this week. In the process of investigating, sometimes things can’t be disclosed.”

Despite that claim, KALB has copied Mayor Hall on the email about the Broadway Ave. shooting.

We will be waiting on that information and provide updates if we get them.

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