In the security video that shocked New Orleans, infrared distortion turns the skin of patrons at Patois a bluish-gray color, creating a visual sense of unreality that matches the confusion felt by those diners moments later when three men wearing masks and hoodies burst in, robbing the entire restaurant at gunpoint on Aug. 21. That citywide shock was only amplified in late September, when robberies took place in similar fashion at Cafe Atchafalaya in the Irish Channel and then the Monkey Hill bar, only a few blocks from Patois and Audubon Park.
The Mayor called a news conference to announce an arrest in an unrelated spree of robberies and tout the city’s crimefighting efforts, then another new conference a day later after Monkey Hill, joined by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite and pledging federal investigation and prosecution of the cases. Local news outlets “flooded the zone” with reaction and analysis pieces, while The New York Times and Washington Post brought national attention to the robbery spree. By the end of the month, the New Orleans City Council held its own hearing on “high-profile” robberies, pitching questions and suggestions to NOPD officials about how to battle the city’s feeling that control was being lost.
The entire discussion, however, provides ample opportunity for an airing of misconceptions about the city, its long battle with violent crime and its police force. While nearly every side of the discussion — frightened residents, embattled city leaders, besieged police officers, and skeptical critics — have made valid and useful points about the issue, the facts frequently get lost in the rhetoric.