Late on a hot July night in a neighborhood off Downman Road in New Orleans, a man was shot in the head. After being taken to the hospital, he succumbed to his injuries. It was another grisly statistic in a city known for its high rate of violence.
Sadly, the shooting was barely mentioned in local media, just another murder victim in a violent city. As usual, the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) provided few details. These regular incidents of crime spark little outrage from the public numbed by the never-ending violence.
In 2017, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell made history as the first female to be elected Mayor of New Orleans. She began her tenure the following year and is nearing the mid-point of her four-year term.
At this juncture, it is a good time to reflect on her political standing in New Orleans. Historically, New Orleans Mayors have easily won re-election. The last incumbent Mayor of New Orleans to lose re-election was Robert Maestri in 1946. Without a major scandal, Cantrell will be a strong favorite to win a second term.
With much fanfare, on October 25, 2018, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other political leaders opened a meditation room at City Hall. The purpose of this “safe space” was to allow people “to reflect, even seek counsel if they need it.” It was one of Cantrell’s anti-violence initiatives for “youth in crisis.”
The Mayor touted the center as a “holistic approach about health and wellness,” featuring reclining chairs, essential oils and diffusers.
After 15 months, it seems clear the “holistic” approach is not working. Juvenile violence is on the upswing. It has been particularly horrible in Lakeview. In fact, one recent incident forced schools and homes to be placed on lockdown as police launched a manhunt to find three automobile thieves who had fled from authorities after a traffic stop.
In recent months, Lakeview residents have had to deal with car burglaries and car windows being smashed all too frequently. Their anger reached a boiling point on Tuesday night at a town hall meeting in Lakeview. A massive crowd attended to express their disappointment at the lack of action from City Hall.
Unfortunately, not only did the Mayor not attend, but she also chose not to send a representative to the meeting. This shows a total lack of respect for an area of New Orleans that send millions of tax dollars to City Hall. Sadly, Lakeview has been ignored for many years. For evidence, just examine the pitiful condition of the streets, which are among the worst in New Orleans.
A leading Lakeview activist Elizabeth Schindler said that residents “want actual results, we don’t want placation.”
Truly, the time for “placation” is over for Lakeview, but did the Mayor get the message? It is a legitimate question for she spends plenty of time outside of the city. For example, she is currently enjoying a trip to Washington Mardi Gras in our nation’s capital. Over the New Year holiday, she visited the country of Ghana on a trade and cultural mission. Last summer, she attended a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Hawaii and led a panel discussion dealing with issues such as “water” and “infrastructure.” For her birthday, she visited the communist nation of Cuba to learn about their health care system and economic development programs.
Let’s hope for remainder of 2020, the Mayor will spend enough time in New Orleans to realize that her administration must focus on crime, especially juvenile crime, as the most important issue to be addressed.
In response to the Lakeview crime surge, the Cantrell administration announced that it will create an evening reporting center for juveniles and a supervision program with social workers. A better approach is to unleash the police department by removing the consent decree that is limiting proactive measures that officers can take. According to the Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, police officers are “not allowed to participate in chases and again that sort of empowers…the criminal to go out and be more brazen on the streets.”
The real answer is not meditation rooms, social workers or midnight basketball. It is old fashioned law and order and punishment for juvenile criminals so they will be deterred from committing more crime. If they receive no punishment for their illegal activities, criminals are incentivized to continue with their delinquent behavior.
Clearly, essential oils are not doing the trick, it is time to let police officers do their jobs.
Jeff Crouere is a native New Orleanian and his award winning program, “Ringside Politics,” airs locally at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and at 10:00 p.m. Sundays on PBS affiliate WLAE-TV, Channel 32, and from 7-11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990-AM & www.Wgso.com. He is a political columnist, the author of America's Last Chance and provides regular commentaries on the Jeff Crouere YouTube channel and on www.JeffCrouere.com. For more information, email him at [email protected]
For months, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other city leaders have been boasting about the reduction in murders this year. It looks like 2019 will end with a significant decrease in the murder rate. This is great news and should be celebrated by all citizens in New Orleans.
Despite this progress, there are serious concerns which remain about crime in New Orleans. Auto burglaries are on the increase all over New Orleans. Sadly, on Sunday morning, at the end of the Bayou Classic weekend, there was a mass shooting on Canal Street. In this case, 10 people were shot and, thankfully, none were killed.
With little to no local media coverage, New Orleans Mayor LaToya and her family left this week for a vacation in Hawaii. She will be back in the office next Monday according to her staff.
For many years, New Orleans has been known for many things, some very positive and some very negative, such as being a hotbed of violent crime. Currently, the city has the nation’s 4th highest murder rate per capita, ranking #1 in the South. Primarily due to New Orleans and the other major urban areas in the state, Louisiana has been ranked as the most violent state in nation.
For generations, New Orleans residents have heard politicians make promises to fight violent crime. Usually, the results have been pathetic, especially in the last administration. Former Mayor Mitch Landrieu left his successor with an understaffed police department, a dysfunctional criminal justice system and a high murder rate.
The Queen City of the South is under siege. No, not from hurricanes. This time, the siege is from within. New Orleans is known as the city that care forgot. But it’s been hard to let the good times roll in the Big Easy when the dice keep coming up snake eyes.
New Orleans is in a battle to stay afloat as it deals with major street crime, inept public officials, and a dysfunctional criminal justice system where even federal officials can no longer be trusted. Author James Lee Burke writes about this corruption and dysfunction in his novel Last Car to Elysian Fields. “One of the most beautiful cities in the Western hemisphere was killed three times, and not just by forces of nature.”