A rapt crowd of more than 60 area professionals serving the needs of victims of domestic violence heard Caddo Parish District Attorney James E. Stewart Sr. detail Wednesday the ways his office is tackling that concern.

“In our society we have people who are preyed upon, and for some reason it tends to be children and women,” he told the monthly meeting of the Caddo/Bossier Domestic Violence Task Force at Ernest’s Orleans Restaurant in Shreveport. “That’s just a reality. … When I left the DA’s office in 1990, domestic abuse was a problem. When I came back in 2015 it was still a societal issue we have yet to come to grips with.”

His remarks, lasting just under a half hour, were followed by a lively question-and-answer session that touched on issues ranging from billboards around town detailing services the office offers, to a new multi-parish Family Justice Center that just opened in Bossier City.

The new District Attorney, elected to that post late last year after decades as an appeals and district judge and prosecutor, elaborated on expansions to his office and exploration of new ways to deal with a more constrained fiscal environment, points he touched on Monday when he kicked off Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. He was keynote speaker at an event organized by the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Shreveport held at the U.S. District Court House in downtown Shreveport.

“What we do is about relationships, our ability to relate to one another,” he said, citing Corinthians’ charge for people to be true to those to whom they have sworn faith. “Domestic abuse comes out of relationships.”

He cited the need to improve communications between the people who work the difference aspects of abuse case, from the arrest and investigation to prosecution and follow-up with victims to ensure there are no delays that can prove harmful to the victims or justice.

“There’s a gap between time an offender gets in the system and the time we can get resources to the (victim),” he said. “We want to lessen that gap. We don’t want people to feel alone.

“The challenge we have is developing new frontiers to go forward to deal with old problems. We have to prosecute the cases we have and we have to develop news ways to deal with old problems.”

He details the challenges that face law officers and prosecutors, such as new laws and procedures that require the arrest of offenders, as opposed to earlier practices where an officer could take immediate action to solve a problem, and the thorny issues of domestic violence where a person who is a victim later comes forward to plead the case for the offender.

“Those are the dynamics we deal with,” he said. “We want to connect to the victim, let them known they are loved, (but we) want to put them into a situation to let them deal with everyday life while their case is going through the system. We are trying to connect all those dots and it takes time.”

He shared some sobering statistics with the crowd:

• In 2015, Caddo Parish processed 125 charges for sexual assault and rape, 568 charges for domestic violence related crimes, and 64 charges for stalking (including cyber-stalking).

• Also in 2015, the total number of charges of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking in Caddo Parish was 757.

• Louisiana ranked  9th in the nation for females murdered by males in 2013.

• Between 2006 and 2014, the Shreveport Police Department reported 18 domestic violence deaths with a firearm, and the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office reported 3 such deaths, for a total of 21 deaths.

“We are in the process of evaluating those cases,” he said, explaining that older cases in which parties might have worked out issues or danger no longer exists are being culled so diminished funding and  resources can be more appropriately allocated to pressing cases. “I believe we need to do something different. We need to resolve these.”

With those numbers in mind, he detailed his office’s new Special Victims Unit and introduced its members to the meeting.

“It’s in its infancy now,” he said. “This is an ever-growing deal.”

Wednesday’s lunch meeting was part of a series of events this week focusing on the victims of crime and domestic violence.

At 3 p.m. Thursday, Stewart will take part in a reception for his staff in the Caddo Parish Courthouse, 501 Texas St., Shreveport, to honor the memory of the late Caddo Parish DA and former District Judge Charles Rex Scott II, whose family will present the office with his portrait. The image will hang in the Francis P. Bickham Building, 525 Marshall St., along with those of earlier Caddo Parish district attorneys.

The reception will be held in conjunction with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week that started with Monday’s ceremony at the federal courthouse. It is observed annually to honor crime victims and survivors and highlight the unique issues that can arise from their experiences. Facilitation is through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime, http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw/

The reception is for employees of the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office. Media interested in covering the event should contact Leone Fitzgerald, director of the First Judicial District Victim Assistance Program, at (318) 226-5916, Ext. 1.