A new ordinance intended to curb inner-city violence will be introduced at the Winnsboro Town Council’s Aug. 19 meeting.
A committee was appointed to research legalities and author the ordinance at a special Town Council meeting July 30. Committee members are Councilmen Rex McCarthy and Jerry Johnson and Winnsboro Police Chief Will Pierce.
The decision to form the committee came on the heels of Waneshia Bush’s death. Bush, 20, an honor student at Grambling State University, was killed after being struck by a stray bullet while attending a block party near Blanson and Smith streets at approximately 1 a.m. July 21.
“Nobody wants to grow up in Dodge City, but that’s where we are headed,” said Mayor Sonny Dumas. “Unless we find ways or avenues to make a difference, we will find ourselves in that situation.”
Initial ordinance concepts would be to require party organizers or property owners to apply for a block party permit if attendance will be more than 50 people. In this permit, party organizers will give a specific attendance number and be required to provide event security.
Adding tighter restrictions to current ordinances on curfews, loitering and blocking streets with vehicles was also discussed. Currently, Winnsboro’s curfew for juveniles is 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. except on Friday and Saturday when it is 11 p.m. until 5 a.m.
“The ordinances are not going to taste good, but it’s going to be like good medicine,” Dumas said. “It’s going to be good for you.”
During the meeting, the sparse crowd tossed around ideas with Dumas, Pierce, Town Council members, Franklin Parish Sheriff Kevin Cobb, Franklin Parish Assistant District Attorney Caroline Hemphill and Winnsboro City Court Judge Scott Sartin.
“Somebody asked me how many chairs do we put out (at the meeting),” Dumas said. “I said put out 50 chairs. I was hoping more people would show up. We have to have more community involvement.”
A major point brought before the group which numbered less than 20 was the lack of parental involvement and the direct correlation of unlawful juvenile behavior.
“We need to get involved in our kids’ lives,” Pierce said. “A lot of these kids’ actions have to do with men. They are not in the lives of these kids. It truly takes a community to raise a child.”
Cobb seconded Pierce’s opinion and urged those in attendance to support local law enforcement.
“We are talking about having rallies which is great, but we need to make sure it is not just lip service,” Cobb said. “We need these ordinances…put as much teeth in them as you can…but we need your backs. We need all of your backs (when police enforce the ordinances.) It is a morality issue. You can’t tend to your kids when you can’t tend to yourself. Our kids are worth fighting for.”
McCarthy placed additional blame on the environment in which juveniles live in, particularly the type of music they listen to. McCarthy, who disc jockeys at various events part time, was at Franklin Medical Center with Bush’s family the night of the accident.
“That evil music they are listening to is speaking violence. It has got our kids living that lifestyle,” McCarthy said. “We have got to make sure we get (the ordinances) right.”
McCarthy and Councilman Tyrone Coleman brought up the need to incorporate the assistance of organizations such as Families in Need of Services (FINS). FINS is a juvenile delinquency prevention program based out of the Baton Rouge area and has an office in Franklin Parish. FINS works with the court system, families and school officials to deter dysfunctional behavior in the home and community.
“I come from a background in corrections,” Coleman said. “Many times juveniles are worse coming out (of corrections) than coming in. We need to try to keep them on these programs as long as we can.”