Residents of the New Orleans Police Department’s Uptown-based Second District will soon have an entirely new level of access to crime information in their neighborhoods, as the district’s recently-appointed commander plans to begin broadcasting his weekly meetings using live video.
Commander Jeff Walls previously served in the Third District — which covers lakefront neighborhoods like Lakeview and Gentilly — and had a similar program there. Every week, when Walls would conduct his regular meeting with supervising officers in the district, the meeting would be broadcast over the Internet using Facebook’s live video feature.
The Third District had around 30 different neighborhood groups that had an interest in crime, Walls said, and their leaders would regularly tune into the Facebook live broadcasts. They could even type questions into Facebook as comments that Walls or other officers could answer during the meetings, he said.
“It helps out with all the neighborhood groups,” Walls said Tuesday night during a meet-and-greet with neighborhood residents at the Second District’s Broadway Street station. “It allows people to better access what’s going on in their neighborhoods.”
The video will remain on the Second District Facebook page after the meeting has concluded, so anyone who misses it can go back and review it later, Walls said.
The meetings — formerly known as Comstat meetings, and now called “Max” meetings — have been open to the public since Ronal Serpas became the NOPD superintendent in 2010, so Walls said he is used to conducting them in a way that gives residents useful information without giving away tactical details to criminals.
The conversations will include updates on specific crimes from the previous week and overviews of crime trends, but do not include information about deployment strategies, for example.
Walls shared the plan for the Facebook videos on Tuesday night during his first meeting with residents since being appointed to lead the district. The district’s previous commander, Doug Eckert, died June 10, one day after his retirement from the force during a battle with cancer.
“I took over the Second District under some sad times, with Commander Eckert passing away,” Walls said. “This was a long fight for him that he had been fighting. He was a good friend of mine.”
Walls said he plans to leave Eckert’s command staff intact, including his second-in-command, Lt. Eric Gillard. The new appointment serves as a reunion for Walls and Gillard; Walls had supervised investigations conducted by Gillard’s task forces in the Sixth District about eight years ago.
Both the murder and armed robbery rates were down under Eckert and Gillard’s leadership, Walls said.
“Doug had everything set up, so kudos to him,” Walls said. “You can tell his character in everything he does.”
The one major problem area at the present is auto break-ins and other minor property crimes by underage teens out of school, Walls said. Detectives have identified many of them as being from the Central City or New Orleans East areas, darting in for a rash of opportunistic burglaries and leaving again before they can be arrested.
Police are increasing the blue-light patrols in areas that have been targeted in car burglaries, raising their visibility in hopes of deterring the break-ins from happening. He asked residents to help as well, particularly by locking their cars.
“The most important thing is, don’t leave guns in your vehicle. They know they can get the guns, and they’re using them for other things,” Walls said, noting that many auto-burglary perpetrators end up as the victims in shootings later.
Even when they are arrested, they rarely stay off the streets for long, Walls said. Now, the city is working on new programs to divert juvenile offenders that target their home lives, and Walls says he is optimistic it will represent a more effective approach.
“Most of them don’t have a family structure,” Walls said. “There’s things going wrong in their life for them to be doing what they’re doing. There’s something going wrong at home, and we see that.”