NEW IBERIA, La. (KLFY) — How do you solve violence in a community? It’s the question everyone tried to answer Monday night in New Iberia. There have been six shootings and two homicides from shootings in New Iberia this year according to the New year Iberia Police Department.
At a West End Park town hall, the community and officials attempted to address the crime. Three city council members organized the open forum because they all had shootings inside their districts recently. They brought people together to find problems and solutions. They found both.
“What’s the plan?” shouted Rev. Donald Wright, pastor of Star Pilgrim Baptist Church, from across the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.
“We are working as fast as we can and as hard as we can,” replied New Iberia Mayor Freddie DeCourt.
Rev. Wright interrupted, “On what? On what?”
That’s one example of an exchange between the people and New Iberia’s mayor, police chief, and sheriff who formed the panel to hear all the questions and concerns citizens had Monday night. The theme was “Stop killing. Start living.”
Although plenty of criticism was given, mostly every comment was working toward a solution. “I’m not looking to beat you up. We’re looking for help, and we’re here to help you,” one man said.
Some questioned if police presence in troubled streets could solve the crime problem. Although the department is short six officers, they don’t believe that’s at the heart of the crime.
“The last two homicides we had, our officers were one minute away, so is it police presence issues? No it’s not,” New Iberia Police Chief Todd Dalbor explained. “If someone is bent on taking another human life, we can’t prevent that if that’s going to happen.”
Still, one woman said what many others implied, “It’s time that somebody starts doing more.”
Sheriff Romero said there is something that can be done. “It starts at home, people. It starts at the house,” he said.
But how do you get those kids engaged? One man was quick to point out that of the about 100 people attending the town hall, none were the adolescents they hoped to turn from a dark path.
Multiple programs were highlighted within the town hall from Boys and Girls Clubs to paid internships tailored specifically for low-income 16 to 24-year-olds.
“We talk about resources. The resources are out there. We need the parents, the teachers, the counselors. We need our community to come together. Get these individuals involved,” encouraged Jada Delahoussaye, the Acadiana Workforce Solutions youth director for Iberia Parish. “You just have to want it.”
Saturday, March 6, from 9 A.M.-1 P.M. there will be a recruitment extravaganza at West End Park. It’s for 16 to 24-year-olds, and if a company is interested in getting the youth a job, a grant is footing the bill for up to 500 hours of internship or apprenticeship work.