Jul 032014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

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.

  • Haven’t many of theses crime solutions already been proposed and even implemented?

    Why not figure why crime happens in the first place as opposed to the BAND-AID more enforcement and police solutions that all cities in America have tried and failed?

    Why not get rid of the 24/7 alcohol and public intoxication city wide? If anyone thinks ALCOHOL brings in the tax dollars let me point out that Jefferson Parish makes more than TWICE the amount of sales tax revenue while not having Bourbon St, FQ, Superdome, FQ Fest, universities, downtown DDD, CBD, JazzFest, Frenchman St. etc.

    Why not understand the FINANCIAL BASICS of Orleans Parish before proposing more police?

  • Profjim

    Since Colorado legalized marijuana at the beginning of the year, murders in Denver are down 40%. Do an article on that.

  • laverne

    I will say it again, black people are totally being grossly neglected
    here!!, you know it and so does every damn body else!! Why are there
    so many homeless people here? Wheres ALL THIS MONEY GOING TO?
    Answer these questions!! Why are all these business’ getting away with
    hiring illegals?, the criminals arent responsible for that!! Lets look into this!!
    Why is the mayor being paid so handsomely for doing absolutely nothing
    without being pulled to the carpet? ( I hear he doesnt like criticism from the
    black community!) Why are people working and still cant pay rent?
    Why arent SLUM LANDLORDS being held accountable for shitty roach-
    infested housing? Why is rent so damn high in the good parts of the
    city? To keep blacks out? Pathetic!! We know crime is crazy, put
    solutions in place and stop talking about it!! Blacks have been pissed about
    crime for years, but now that whites are being attacked now its important!!
    But the mayor waited too long to do something about it, sinse President
    Obama has been in the SPOTLIGHT!!! GOOD LUCK!!

  • This is NOT a color issue, it is a socioeconomics issue on the micro scale and the normative behavior it produces. Let me explain (and please forgive me for my over generalization of the problems and my assumption of a standard bell shaped curve where 97.72 of the population isn’t the problem). Here in New Orleans, the crime is usually caused by someone who is impoverished to some degree and is indoctrinated with society’s standard pursuit of self-interest. This self-interest doctrine is ingrained by kids being left alone, in single homes with parents who are fending for themselves first and their children second. This leads to the normative behavior in that generation which obviously is shooting first and ask questions later. If you look at everyone that has been identified as being involved in the shootings, you will see they are the tough talking, gang symbol throwing, trash talking type (quote from their FB page “I needa gtf out dis house somebody f**** with me lol). They are from the poorer side of town (Marrero) and attended some of the below average High Schools in the area. None of this by itself is a recipe for disaster, just like sugar, eggs and flour don’t make a cake until you mix it and cook it correctly. We can’t fix most things, but in the US, poverty is fixable (and I don’t mean give everyone a check). Poverty affects purchasing power, social mobility and living conditions. If we can somehow fix parts of that, we can maybe break some of the links in the chain. If we stop condoning the Kardashians type of life style and lead by better examples, we may be able to turn this thing around. Lastly, the French Quarter is an attractive nuisance, just like a pool. You have to put up a fence around a pool in order to get insurance so that kids and teenagers don’t drown in your pool. If these business owners would do a little bit more due diligence and enforce the drinking ages, if they would do more to help the problem instead of maximizing their profit and if we treated Bourbon Street like the Adult Disneyland it is, we would be better off. Prohibition won’t work, but make Bourbon Street less of an attractive nuisance we would be better off. You can scoff at me all you want, but when is the last time you saw an issue at Pat O’Briens? They are the gold standard when it comes to protecting their franchise and the area around them. They attract a better clientele and reap the benefits accordingly. This is all just my humble opinion.

  • UptownLarry

    Why do you people always tiptoe around the real issue? The incident in the FQ was isolated – not acceptable, but happens. The real problem are the constant aggravated assaults, car theft/car jacking, stolen bikes and breaking & entering. Have you seen the trend in the demographic causing those crimes? How about profiling and targeting them? Why would this be a bad thing? How about this ‘out of the box idea’ — have the national guard patrol the streets in Orleans Parish. Urban combat is where battles are taking place, so the streets of New Orleans would be perfect training. If they stationed themselves on major intersections and patrolled the streets, there would be a drop in crime without a doubt. The resources are there, let’s use them!