Jan 172012
 

Amid a chorus of upset voices raised over escalating violence around New Orleans, a volunteer at Johnson Elementary School asked police officials Tuesday night what could be done to keep schoolchildren safe, since a man was gunned down in the street just outside her campus late last year.

“There’s nothing you can do,” piped up another woman, a longtime teacher: All you can do is teach the children to drop to the floor quickly when the shooting starts.

That exchange was just one of many despairing anecdotes Tuesday night at the NOPD Second District’s monthly community meeting — a normally-placid event that rarely involves complaints more serious than basic quality of life issues. Many of the same neighborhood leaders and ardent police supporters who always attend the meeting were there this month, but their comments Tuesday had a suddenly urgent, frightened and angry tone as they asked why crime seems to be spreading so quickly, and why police seem so unable to respond to it.

One Carrollton resident said her house had been broken into in the last week, and that she saw the burglar walking out her front door as she arrived home — but it took police four hours to arrive on the scene. Another woman, a Valence Street resident, said she saw a man on New Year’s Eve climb atop a car and shoot out the streetlights in her block, but that police never arrived at all.

Tim Garrett of the State Street Drive neighborhood said he, too, has started hearing from neighbors that they called police for various reasons, but that officers never showed up.

“That’s unusual to me,” Garrett said. “I had been bragging on your response times, up until about a month ago.”

Many of the 20 or so audience members Tuesday demanded to know exactly what kind of manpower is available in the Second District, which stretches from the police station at Magazine and Napoleon up to Hollygrove. Capt. Bruce Adams, the interim commander of the Second District, explained that each shift has a patrol platoon of 13 to 15 officers, though the number is lowered any given day by time off, sick days and other routine personnel issues.

When the numbers reach too low, there are about a dozen “task force” and narcotics officers normally assigned to prevention efforts and targeted efforts that Adams can use to supplement the officers answering routine calls. And when calls for service completely overwhelm the number of officers available, Adams can pull district detectives off their investigations to help out, or begin answering calls himself, he said.

“Do I think we’re in a state of emergency? The answer is yes,” Adams says. “I’m not pulling any punches. We need more officers.”

The reluctance of the city leaders to admit the problem and ask for help from the National Guard smacks of political calculations, not public safety considerations, the residents said. Further, they argued, Second District police should not be reassigned to downtown areas for major tourist events, such as New Year’s Eve — those areas should have the resources to take care of themselves.

“You have to take it back to the higher ups: We really don’t care about the French Quarter,” said resident Richard McCormack.

The increase in violent crime Uptown is not the residents’ imagination. While the number of crimes reported in the Second District rose only 5 percent overall in 2011, the district recorded 25 murders in 2011 — up from nine the year before and accounting for the majority of the citywide increase. Armed robberies soared from 72 in 2010 to 98 in 2011.

The community leaders — representing nearly every neighborhood in the Second District — said they would be reassured if they heard a more concrete plan being articulated by city leaders, rather than an insistence that the current efforts are working.

“It really has spun out of control,” said Barbara Johnson, a leader of the Central Carrollton Association who herself was a robbery victim last month. “Literally, there’s a war going on, and we’re all on the front lines.”

One Riverbend resident recounted a group of unfamiliar young people walking in her block who struck neighbors as suspicious. They called police, but because the teens weren’t actively breaking laws, they weren’t stopped. A few days later, the Riverbend neighbors recognized a girl in the group as the same teen arrested in a series of Carrollton-area carjackings in which the victims were pepper-sprayed.

“Call police every time you think something is wrong,” Adams urged the audience. “A nosy neighbor is the best thing you can have.”

For the audience — people on a first-name basis with many Second District leaders — that advice was insufficient to calm their fears.

“We are those people!” several cried out together in response.

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To read our live coverage of Tuesday evening’s meeting, click in the box below.

  15 Responses to ““There’s a war going on, and we’re all on the front lines:” Uptown residents decry increase in crime, insufficient police manpower”

  1. Let me go ahead and tell what the problem is. We do not have enough police officers in the city. The chief of police admits it every time he is interviewed. The police chief follows his admission by stating that these are the resources that were given to him and he will do what he can with them. I do not know why he cannot simply ask the city council for more funds. I think that there is a political understanding between the mayor’s office and the council that they will not give each other a hard time in order for political gains. It is unfortunate that our elected officials are not putting pressure on each other to help the city move forward. The city council needs to find a means for funding more officers. At the very least, the mayor and police chief should be demanding more funds for officers. In the alternative, the national guard should come in. It is unfortunate that the mayor does not want the national guard in the city because we will be hosting a super bowl and does not want national headlines. More innocent people must be robbed at gun point, so we can have a super bowl. More officers on the beat will allow for better response times and allow for more detectives to do investigations. This is absurd how the mayor, chief, and council have colluded to kill more New Orleanians in exchange for political survival.

  2. Incident last night – just came home from work when a young man walked past, another young man stopped in his car and waved to him with a gun in his hand. Three of us saw this we all called police

  3. It’s not the number of police; it’s the improper use and deployment of the officers. Over specialization with little result.

  4. Improper use and deployment is an understatement. Not long ago I went through a bad divorce with a very aggressive attorney who was on a first name basis with some of the uptown police. After I left our house in fear one night, he threw some plates around and then called them claiming his crazy wife had done it and he was “scared” of her. Two officers were there within seconds and calling me on my cell asking where I was. Where I was, of course, was exactly what I didn’t want my violent soon-to-be-ex to know.

    Yes, far too many police being wasted on ‘favors’ like this, on details, on patroling special events. Far too few actually policing.

  5. Robert – I was the person who said the Captain needed to take it back to the higher-ups that we were just as important as the French Quarter – I did not say we didn’t care about the French Quarter. My point was that we property tax- paying residents deserve as much police protection and service as do the merchants in the Quarter. Remember I said the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and I wanted the Captain to make his bosses aware that there are a lot of sqeaky wheels in the 2nd District who don’t think they are getting any grease but are still paying the bills when all the grease is going to the Quarter merchants. Thanks for the report. Keep up the good work. R. E. McCormack

  6. “There’s nothing you can do,” piped up another woman, a longtime teacher: All you can do is teach the children to drop to the floor quickly when the shooting starts.

    If I’d heard this on the national news and out of context I’d think they were talking about the middle east or something. Suddenly “culture” feels like a lame excuse for putting my children in danger on a daily basis. This city is starting to feel as hopeless as it did pre-Katrina. The post-disaster optimism is waning.

  7. I GAVE UP ON THESE NONPAC MEETINGS. I NOW CARRY A WEAPON AND MY FAMILY DOES ALSO. THIS IS A WAR! WE NEED THE NATIONAL GUARD TO COME IN NOW.

  8. National Guard is a waste. NOPD and the mayor need to ask the Gov. to get the state police in this area. State police only arrest people in NOLA at harrahs. They drive with blinders on through NOLA on thier way to the JP westbank jail. They maybe affraid that the State police may actually do something, or expose even more corruption in this city.

  9. Are there are former MPs from the Armed Forces that may be looking for a job? If they are rough…well it isn’t soft here any more…since it appears to be a battle zone.

  10. I have heard all of the problems and all of the possible solutions, but no one suggested one possible solution to the city’s funding problem. If the mayor and the city council can’t agree on anything and can’t find money to hire more police (male or female), then why not replace them with some people that can find the money and they may know where the tax money should possibly be placed. Everyone is looking at New Orleans and laughing at how stupid the elected officials are and how useless the general public is when they don’t use the power of the VOTE to make their elected officials do something. We had the red light cameras to catch the light runners and speeders, that money could have been used to help pay for more policemen, but the very people that run the signal lights talked them down. That would have paid for a lot of help. Instead of paying some company to enforce parking violations why not employ some of the out of work senior citizens and use the city payroll depart- ment to taken care of the payroll. That would be cheaper then paying some outside company. When did the city start requiring police employees to have a college degree? That would be fine if you are paying a college salary. Require a high school education, make the starting salary around $30,000 and require that the trainees have continued education and require an associated degree from a junior college by the sixth year of employment. Then in the long run move the requirement up to a full college education for applicants in six years, with a starting salary of $40,000. PLUS GET RID OF THE DO NOTHINGS ON THE CITY COUNCIL.

    • Eli,

      Police compensation in New Orleans is about the same at Atlanta (just shy of $35k per year to a recruit, and just under $42k after one year). It’s a bit more than Houston pays to start (about $32k). It’s much higher than Baton Rouge, which starts at less than $30k per year. There’s nothing wrong with police compensation in New Orleans.

  11. Owen,

    Starting pay for law enforcement all over the South is about the same (STARTING PAY).

    That’s where the similarities end. Other cities, who value experienced, professional officers provide raises and promotions after so many years of experience.

    While New Orleans *advertises* these incentives, the reality is that the city has been skipping out on promised promotions for six or seven years.

    Now who would stick around for that? Six, seven years on the job, maybe moved up to homicide section or auto theft – and the city is squeezing you for experience for the same money recruits are making……

    Then some place like Houston says “You have six years metropolitan law enforcement experience, we’ll offer you $62,000, commiserate with that experience” – and the flood gates have opened.

    This crew won’t advertise those little facts.

  12. Also – don’t let *advertised* pay fool you.

    Police officers in this city BRING HOME around $24,000 a year, even experienced ones.

    Check the appropriate article on The Lens archives from a City Council meeting late last year.

    All the best talent is going where they are wanted.

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