Prior to joining HANO, Bennett worked for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office for 13 years. Friends described him as “lovable” and a “class act.” He believed in the mission of HANO and had been working on an outreach program. Bennett wanted to give HANO residents more opportunities for physical fitness by bringing a mobile gym to the various developments he served.
Sadly, Bennett will not have an opportunity to fulfill his dreams because of his senseless murder. It occurred while Bennett was patrolling alone near a deserted section of Guste public housing development in Central City. It was an ambush attack and there was no apparent reason for the murder. As of today, no witnesses have come forward, no arrests have been made and the New Orleans Police Department is asking for the public’s help in solving the case.
Due to his position as a police officer, Bennett’s murder was covered extensively by national news outlets. Every time a gruesome New Orleans crime generates national attention, an untold number of tourists and conventions think twice about visiting the area. It negates all of the “good” media attention the city earns for hosting successful festivals and sporting events.
Officer Bennett’s murder was only one of many violent crimes that plagued New Orleans during the Memorial Day weekend. New Orleans East was the scene of two double murders. This morning a woman was raped near City Park on the corner of Wisner Boulevard and Filmore Avenue. This rape occurred just weeks after another woman was raped in City Park, a venue normally associated with pleasant recreational activities.
In recent weeks, several groups of students have been mugged near Tulane University in the Uptown section of the city highlighting that no area of New Orleans is safe. In fact, no individual is safe in New Orleans, whether the person is a police officer or a student.
There is a carnival of crime in New Orleans that shows no sign of abating. Since Mayor Mitch Landrieu assumed his position, many of those responsible for protecting and serving the citizens have registered their disapproval of his leadership by leaving. In the last five years, approximately 600 police officers have left the department.
While new recruits are finally trickling in to the NOPD, more officers are leaving every year. The Mayor gives some lip service to the crime problem, but little else. His focus is on issues such as raising property taxes and issuing executive orders supposedly forbidding persecution of gays and lesbians. Experts say that his executive order, while extensively covered by the media, will result in very little of substance. It was a measure designed for maximum publicity, but with practically no impact.
Instead of grandstanding, the Mayor should be focused like a laser beam on the crime problem. It is harming the city’s number one industry, tourism, and driving more people to move out of New Orleans. It is a crisis that demands full attention, not just occasional news releases.