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]