For years, New Orleans has been suffering from an unacceptable level of violence, but it is becoming even more of a problem today. In just the past few weeks, there have been shootings in almost every area of New Orleans: Gentilly, New Orleans East, Central City, Uptown, and Treme just to name a few neighborhoods. Some of the violence involves criminals killing criminals, but innocent children are also being shot and killed. At some point, law abiding citizens have to say "enough is enough."
These crime problems are severe and need to be addressed immediately. New Orleans does not have the luxury to wait for long term solutions such as improvements in public education. Law abiding citizens want solutions now or they will continue to leave for the safer suburbs.
This increasing level of violence gives the city a very bad image and overshadows the positive press New Orleans received during the Sugar Bowl and BCS Championship games.
During the major sporting events, police beefed up their presence at the tourist hot spots, such as the French Quarter. It is comforting that the vast majority of our visitors were protected during these major events. The problem is that other areas of New Orleans were unprotected. Last Saturday, a woman was attacked going from the Algiers Ferry to her home and it took police 80 minutes to respond. Officers claimed that their numbers were low in Algiers because the majority of the officers in their district were deployed in the French Quarter.
It is clear that New Orleans need more police protection. In recent years, the NOPD has been decimated for a variety of reasons. Officers have left the force for retirement, but others have been forced to resign or fired, while some have been indicted or arrested for criminal behavior. The result is that the police force is several hundred officers smaller than its peak prior to Hurricane Katrina.
Unfortunately, it takes time to recruit and train police officers. A new recruiting class will add only a few dozen new officers and it will take years to build up to an adequate staffing level. In the meantime, the people of New Orleans are at risk as the number of criminals is not declining, but increasing.
Until significantly more officers can be added to the force, the Governor should deploy the National Guard in New Orleans. This will supplement the NOPD and allow our police to focus on high crime areas. The National Guard can be used to help maintain order on the streets of the city. They can patrol and act as a deterrent, but not make arrests or try to apprehend criminals.
The National Guard served in New Orleans for almost four years after Hurricane Katrina, so there is precedent for this type of deployment. These citizen soldiers can play an invaluable role in restoring calm to New Orleans during this crime emergency.
It is the only short term solution that makes sense and can have an impact immediately. Some will complain that it doesn't look good to have the National Guard in New Orleans. However, it is much worse the people of New Orleans to have to deal with a violent crime rate that shows no sign of abating.
Jeff Crouere is a native of New Orleans, LA and he is the host of a Louisiana based program, “Ringside Politics,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:00 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 till 11 a.m.weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. For more information, visit his web site at www.ringsidepolitics.com. E-mail him at [email protected].