Everyone we know is talking about our off-the-charts crime problem. While Bourbon Street could arguably be the most famous street in the world and crimes there like last Saturday’s shootings are truly shots heard ’round the world, the depth of our crime problem is really in our neighborhoods.
What we need are out-of-the-box crime solutions.
We appreciate Congressman Cedric Richmond’s willingness to reach out to Attorney General Eric Holder for leniency in the implementation schedule of the NOPD consent decree. There is no question that the NOPD and OPP consent decrees cannot be easily funded in 2015 without increased taxes or drastic cuts in city services.
As Congressman Richmond pointed out, there may not be too many spare dollars available at the federal level to help out at this time. Slowing down mandated funding of NOPD’s consent decree, might seem like a good idea, but it will not make New Orleans safer. Simply put, we need more cops in neighborhoods — whether NOPD or private security — and the return of private details for businesses too
Private details in places like the French Quarter provided skilled, trained, and consistent extra eyes and ears who could spot trouble or troubled individuals in a heartbeat. Could they have spotted those two young punks on Saturday before they started shooting or help chase them down? Absolutely. Let businesses bring back the detailed officers they have worked with consistently, even if businesses have to pay a little more for their services.
Perhaps our NOPD recruiting efforts need a new out-the box strategy. Mayor Landrieu has done a good job of positioning New Orleans as a great relocation destination for young professionals, why can’t he recruit more young professionals interested in criminal justice careers? We should use our cultural resources — musicians and chefs — as a recruitment tool. We should recruit at every major event locally including Essence, Saints games, the Bayou Classic, French Quarter Fest, the Jazz Fest — and follow the Saints and Tulane on the road. We could recruit along the Florida coast during Spring Break, in Times Square during New Years Eve, at the Super Bowl every year. You get the idea.
Perhaps colleges like Loyola or SUNO who offer criminal justice curriculums could arrange free or reduced scholarships for students if they made a commitment to 5 years of local NOPD employment after graduation. Perhaps NORA could kick in some blighted housing. The construction industry could renovate them. Lenders offer reduced mortgages. Local furniture stores donate a living room or bedroom set. Car dealers offers some sort of incentive. We need all of these things, not just one or two of them. You get the picture
There is no question that crime affects business. Therefore business should be part of the solution. We think the business community should create an Adopt A Cop program. Based on gross sales or some other formula, large businesses could each underwrite the cost of hiring a new police officer. Smaller businesses could chip in as a group by business type or location, kind of like a United Way campaign.
Much of our tourism industry (except restaurants) is dominated by large out-of-state corporations. Let’s go to the corporate offices of Hilton, Marriot, Sheraton, Hyatt and those other big brands and ask them to provide extra funding for police — perhaps through their foundations.
We don’t know a neighborhood whose residents don’t worry about crime. Residents in more affluent areas could increase utilization of their private security patrols. Residents in less affluent neighborhoods, could re-energize their Neighborhood Watch block captain programs so there are always eyes watching.
Increasing the number of crime cameras in residential and business areas is also crucial. Crime cameras are inexpensive. Though a camera only sometimes intimidates criminals, it can sure help catch ‘em.
Councilmember Nadine Ramsey recommended this week that every officer who has completed the police academy should be on the street, with a few exceptions. Desk jobs should be filled by civilians. The citizens deserve a full accounting on how many officers are on the street in every district each day, Ramsey says. At the rate recruitment is going now, we will never recruit enough police officers to keep up with retirements and transfers — let alone rebuild the force.
This crisis impacts every citizen of New Orleans. Every citizen should be part of the solution. Ramsey is in the process of scheduled meetings throughout her council district. Other councilmembers will probably do the same. Seeking help from Governor Jindal and the federal government is a good first move, but is not enough. We anxiously await Mayor Landrieu’s leadership and encourage him to reach out citywide to help craft solutions using whatever resources wherever he can find them.
On a related note, Charles Gaby, Director of Training for The Institute for Restorative Communities based in Dallas, will be speaking at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church this Sunday to present proven tools that have helped reduce serious student offenses in the Dallas area schools by teaching kids how to manage their emotions and resulting behavior. Gaby says there is a direct correlation between what happened on Bourbon Street to young men using violence as a solution to their emotional problems.
Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several televsion programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.