Today, despite the sordid City Hall history, it is time for an even bigger crime rally in New Orleans. As 2015 begins, the crime problem in New Orleans is getting worse, while the police force is shrinking. While there are many culprits in this tragedy, the one who deserves the most blame is the Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu.
The first priority of any Mayor is responsible for public safety. Mayor Landrieu is not succeeding in that important area, in fact, his is failing miserably.
In recent days, there have been reports of violent crime in almost every area of New Orleans. For example, there have been armed robberies on St. Charles Avenue, beatings in the CBD, a carjacking in Gentilly, rapes in the French Quarter and an armed home invasion in the Uptown area. In New Orleans East, an attempted rape victim was able to escape only by leaping from a moving vehicle. No longer is there a safe zone in New Orleans, as everyone is vulnerable.
The crown jewel of New Orleans, the French Quarter, is a battle zone as the decimated police force is not present in adequate numbers in this tourist hot spot. Under Mayor Landrieu, the NOPD has declined significantly. At least 500 officers have left the force during Landrieu’s tenure, while the Mayor has been unable or unwilling to recruit new officers to replace them. Thus a force of almost 1,600 is now a force of approximately 1,000 officers. While new recruiting classes have been announced in recent months, more officers are still leaving, so the force continues to decline.
The Mayor’s feel good programs like Nola for Life and midnight basketball are not the answer. The only effective way to really dent the crime rate is to sufficiently staff the police force and increase the presence of police officers on the city’s crime ridden streets.
It is so bad that businessman Sidney Torres is mounting an advertising campaign imploring the Mayor to focus on public safety in the French Quarter. Landrieu’s arrogant response is for the businessman to pay for the increased security himself. However, it is not the job of Sidney Torres to keep the French Quarter safe; it is the job of Mayor Landrieu. If he fulfill his most important duty, he should resign or be recalled.
While City Hall has bragged that the number of murders fell 4% last year, it is no reason to celebrate. In fact, armed robberies were up 40% and shootings increased 25%, not exactly statistics that should be touted.
Police officers are angry about aggressive monitoring of their activities, changes in their detail program, and poor leadership from City Hall. There have also been policy changes that will severely hurt some police officers. For example, this Mardi Gras, since the officer ranks have been reduced, policemen will not be allowed to ride in any parades, even though some have spent thousands of dollars in krewe dues and Mardi Gras throws. To force police officers to take such a financial hit, when many of them are already struggling financially, is beyond outrageous. This type of policy does not engender good relations with the officers, who are already leaving in droves, and will undoubtedly continue to beat a path out of New Orleans.
The Mayor blames the state and federal government for his woes as he looks to others to solve the problem he has made worse. It is so bad he should call for the National Guard, but it won’t happen. The conventional wisdom among elected officials in New Orleans is that the National Guard sends the wrong message to citizens and tourists alike. In contrast, it sends exactly the right message about the shape of the city. It is a war zone in New Orleans, so the use of the National Guard is utterly appropriate.
In the meantime, the victim count will continue to accumulate as the police force shrinks. The lack of mayoral response will continue until the people of New Orleans respond in great numbers by marching on City Hall and contacting their elected officials. If there is not an outcry in sufficient numbers to generate media attention and political action, there will be no real change and the siege of New Orleans will only become worse.