Feb 092012

Panelists (left to right) Peter Scharf, Ginger Berrigan, Earl Williams, Nancy McPherson and Joe Sherman speak about challenges and victories in fighting crime in Hollygrove at Tulane. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

From suffering though shootings on a nightly basis in years past, the Hollygrove neighborhood has evolved into a tight-knit network of neighbors whose efforts to target problem properties have made substantial progress in the fight against crime, neighborhood leaders said Thursday night.

Three prominent Hollygrove residents — Joe Sherman of the Carrollton Hollygrove CDC, the Rev. Earl Williams and federal Judge Ginger Barrigan — and two supporters, Louisiana AARP director Nancy McPherson and Tulane criminologist Peter Scharf, all described Hollygrove’s success in a panel discussion hosted by the Center for Public Service at Tulane University.

Sherman started the discussion by charting Hollygrove’s working-class past, followed by white flight in the 1960s, Vietnam War-era strife, the rise of crack cocaine, and the exodus of the black middle class in the 1970s. By the 1980s and 1990s, gunfire was a constant fact of Hollygrove life, the panelists said.

“I would sit sometimes in my back study about 10 o’clock, and I would hear gunshots,” Barrigan said. “I would think, ‘I guess it’s time to go upstairs,’ because a bullet might come through the window.”

In the wake of the flooding and devastation after Hurricane Katrina, residents looking to rebuild returned before the criminals, Williams said, saying the disaster “cleaned” the area in a comment that would later draw some criticism. By the time the drug dealers returned, Williams said, neighbors had become well-enough organized that they were prepared to deal with them.

Barrigan organized a Hollygrove law-enforcement summit in her chambers, and Louisiana AARP contributed money to hire a crime consultant. Neighbors began working with police to identify criminals and see their cases through prosecution, and neighborhood leaders began training for crime prevention.

The culmination of those efforts was a 70 percent reduction in crime in Hollygrove in 2010, and they are still paying off. The community leaders began the meeting by applauding the recent raid and closure of Big Time Tips bar in the neighborhood last weekend after a fatal shooting there in December, and moderator Kevin Brown said its closing represented “one of the greatest victories” so far.

To read our live coverage of the forum — and the associated comments from participants on Twitter — click in the box below.

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