Youth, leaders discuss crime in Donaldsonville

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Members of the Donaldsonville Mayor's Youth Advisory Council present their perspective on issues facing young people during the community meeting held Feb. 7.

A second meeting to tackle crime issues brought together members of the community and area officials to Donaldsonville City Hall Feb. 7.

According to information provided by the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office, five shootings were reported in the early part of 2023. One shooting killed 18-year-old Kenneth Hathorn. A second shooting resulted in a person being struck in the foot. The other three were reports of shots fired but no one was hit.

Every few months, events have been held to address violent crime and other issues. Citizens and officials previously gathered Nov. 9 last year to discuss crime. The organizers also held a townhall meeting at the courthouse Aug. 10 as well as a march and rally in the city Feb. 27

Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan said crime problems have plagued the area as well as the entire country.

"Violence is going on all over, but we need to focus on what's going on here in Donaldsonville," he said.

Sullivan suggested the community should hear from the youth, so members of the Mayor's Youth Advisory Council were invited to give a presentation on the issues from the perspective of young people.

Volunteer coordinator Tamiko Francis Garrison has organized the MYAC for eight years. The group will travel to Washington, D.C., at the end of March.

Several political and religious leaders spoke during the meeting, including Ascension Parish Chief Administrative Officer John Diez, State Sen. Ed Price, Ascension Parish School Board member Robyn Penn Delaney, and the Rev. Chris Smith. Representatives of the sheriff's office also attended and provided information on the department's resources.

"I know change can take place. We have to be intentional about making the change," Smith said.

Diez spoke about the temporary early childhood development center that was celebrated late last year by Gov. John Bel Edwards at the renovated B. Lemann and Bro. building. The permanent location will be at the former West Ascension Elementary School site. Nicholls State University in Thibodaux has been involved with the implementation of the program.

The early childhood development center project was approved instead of working toward building a juvenile detention center, which Diez called a "prison for kids."

Delaney stressed the importance of early childhood development and Head Start. As she is serving in her last term on the school board, she said her goal is to leave the district better than when she started.

Delaney said Ascension Parish Schools may partner with River Parishes Community College in Gonzales to offer programs at Donaldsonville High School.

Gonzales Weekly Citizen and Donaldsonville Chief, part of the USA Today Network of Louisiana, cover Ascension Parish and the greater Baton Rouge area. Follow at facebook.com/WeeklyCitizen and facebook.com/DonaldsonvilleChief.