Uptown robbery surge continues despite arrests of at least 20 young suspects over the last week

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Robberies reported in the Uptown area since Friday, Jan. 13. (via NOPD.com)

At least 20 teenagers have been arrested on robbery charges in the last two weeks, but the surge in Uptown robberies has continued unabated, police officials said Thursday.

One case alone yielded the arrest of a gang of nine teens who were allegedly involved in stealing a man’s laptop as he walked on Prytania Street. In another, a group of teens suspected in a series of Carrollton-area muggings were caught breaking into a house in the Milan area. Other cases involved cross-town car chases and block-by-block manhunts, almost always involving teens not much older than 16 or 17.

“We’re making some good arrests, and putting a lot of people in jail for it,” said Sgt. Chris Billiot of the NOPD Second District persons-crime division. “These youngsters think this is something funny, but it’s not very profitable.”

* * *

The largest group of arrests came from a case on Prytania Street last Friday, when a man walking near Valence Street around 6:30 p.m. noticed a large group of teens following behind him, and began to feel threatened, Billiot said. One suddenly ran up and took the man’s computer bag, and the rest scattered, but police were already in the area and quickly caught the one who had taken the computer, Billiot said. He then implicated the others as lookouts, and they were all charged with simple robbery, Billiot said.

Police had previously arrested 17-year-old Latesha Williams in one of a series of robberies along Carrollton Avenue in which a group of teens was repeatedly using pepper spray in the muggings. Several other teens were suspected in the case, and on Jan. 12, officers responding to a report of a burglary in progress in the 2500 block of Amelia saw four teens actually attempting to pull iron bars off the window — including several of Williams’ suspected associates, Billiot said.

After her booking photo appeared on UptownMessenger.com last week, citizens have reported seeing Williams walking in with a group of male teenagers in at least a three-mile range around Uptown, Billiot noted.

In yet another case, three teen girls robbed a woman of her cell phone Tuesday afternoon at Arabella and Hurst streets, Billiot said. Police chaplain Joe Cull happened to be nearby, saw girls matching the description and followed them until officers arrived, leading to their capture, Billiot said. But in that case, only the girl actually identified as the one who took the phone was charged, because the other two did not appear to have known she was going to do it, Billiot said.

That group, Billiot said, appeared to have taken the streetcar line to the neighborhood prior to the robbery.

Mitchell Esteen

Anthony Gioustovia

In the 700 block of Austerlitz on Sunday evening, a man was robbed of his car, but Sixth District police quickly caught sight of it and followed it over to Elysian Fields, where it was ditched, said Lt. Troy Savage of the NOPD Sixth District investigative unit. Police found and arrested two teens, 18-year-old Anthony Gioustovia and 17-year-old Mitchell Esteen, Savage said.

James Tucker (via opcso.org)

On Monday, a woman getting off of work from Touro Infirmary was walking home in the 3600 block of St. Charles when she was approached from behind by a man who hit her and then grabbed her purse, Savage said. A bystander saw her in distress and followed the attacker onto Delachaise Street, and police were able to set up a perimeter around the block until they found him. James Tucker, 20, was charged with purse snatching and simple assault, according to jail records.

Early Thursday morning, a woman was getting a piggyback ride from a man in the Lavin-Bernick Center lawn on Tulane’s campus, when someone grabbed her off his back from behind and stole her purse, campus police officials said. They were able to track the woman’s iPhone, however, to a white Buick that officers found in the 1400 block of Joliet. After a brief chase — tracking the phone up Carrollton Avenue during the pursuit — NOPD officers assisted in stopping the vehicle on Marks Street in the Dixon neighborhood and found the cell phone inside.

Jonathan Bonilla

That suspect, identified as 27-year-old Jonathan Bonilla, has been charged with possession of stolen property, said Tulane Police Capt. Donald Saucier, as the investigation continues into the robbery itself. Based on statements he made to the arresting officers, campus police have also asked the Department of Homeland Security to investigate his citizenship.

* * *

Police are also actively investigating several other robberies that have yet to be solved, officials said.

On Sunday morning, two victims walking near Carrollton and Oak were robbed at gunpoint by a suspect with a fairly distinctive description, Billiot said. Their assailant was a black man in his 30s with freckles and dreadlocks, about 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, Billiot said, and he used a phrase that hasn’t been heard in other robberies: “If you try anything I’ll light you up.” Though he ran past several Oak Street businesses as he left, police have yet to find any video imagery of him, Billiot said.

On Jan. 13, a woman was threatened at knifepoint but may have averted a robbery with her screams, Billiot said. She was walking her dog that evening in the 5500 block of South Saratoga when a stranger walked up, asked how old her dog was and whether the dog bit, Billiot said. The man bent to pet the dog on the head, then pulled a knife from his pants leg and told her not to say anything, Billiot said, but she screamed and the man ran off.

Another dog-walker was robbed Sunday evening as he took his Yorkie out in the 4000 block of Chestnut. Savage said investigators are in the process of obtaining video that may lead to an arrest in that case.

Two robberies were reported Jan. 13 and 14 on Thalia Street on opposite sides of St Charles Avenue, but the descriptions of the incidents were quite different, said Sgt. Sabrina Richardson of the NOPD Sixth District investigative unit. In one, the victim was leaving a daiquiri shop when a man approached from behind with an implied weapon and demanded the victim’s belongings, then ran off on foot. In the second case, a victim parked and walked to Popeye’s, realized it was closed, and then turned to leave when a car pulled up and a man with a black handgun jumped out, Richardson said. The victim dropped his cash on the ground and then ran off, Richardson said.

Also on Jan. 14, a victim leaving a bar on St. Mary Street in the Lower Garden District in the early morning hours was robbed at gunpoint, Richardson said.

The Second and Sixth Districts — which together run from the U.S. 90 overpass to Jefferson Parish, covering all of Uptown New Orleans — averaged a total of about three or four robberies a week over the last two years, statistics show. But in the last week alone, 10 robberies were reported, according to the current crime maps — despite all the recent arrests.

“It was a really rough week,” Billiot said.

34 thoughts on “Uptown robbery surge continues despite arrests of at least 20 young suspects over the last week

  1. Maybe it has something to do with half the police departmen quitting in the past year?

    Aren’t there like two cops on the street everyday now?

    • How did you hear about the home invasion on Second Street Tuesday? I haven’t hear about this but I’d like to know because I live on Second Street.

      • if you go to the nola.gov website and search nola crime map or even google nola crime map you can see the crimes reported in certain areas. There were two on second street in two days.

  2. This is a great recap of all the robberies in uptown–It shows how widespread the problem has become. It is also shocking that they are all so young.

    It would take some time to compile all of the data, but I would be interested in the outcomes and current disposition of the criminals arrested for crimes like these–how many spent time in jail and how many are currently in jail. Annecdotally these are the criminals that benefit from the “drive through justice” at Orleans Parish Criminal Court referenced by Chief Serpas the other week. Just a quick search of the Orleans Parish Criminal Court Docket for the first pictured individual (Anthony Gioustovia) shows at least two prior arrests for burglary and possession of a stolen vehicle.

    We should not stand for violent criminals to not serve any jail time, and I have never seen a quality “follow up” on what most would consider petty crime.

  3. Thanks, Uptown Messenger, for compiling these reports into an account that is as readable as it is depressing.

    James Carville is fond of saying that in New Orleans we care about way of life more than quality of life. While there is some truth to that, a way of life that includes this level of crime is not very appealing to me.

      • No problem. I found the comment rather insightful into the Nola mindset.

        Is there anyplace else in the US that has the combination of violent crime and high real estate prices? Where else would one plunk down 300k for a old house in a high crime area?

        At least in Detroit you can get your house in a crime infested neighborhood for a reasonable price.

  4. Two scowling black teens have been seen walking up and down S. Robertson between Jefferson and State (near the Mayor’s house no less). They do not live in the neighborhood. Would you all call the police in this situation? If so, who?

    • I would not care what color they were. I would call the police just because they look suspicious,and if they were white. A criminal is a criminal no matter what color they are. I live in a nice area on the westbank, and have called the police not even knowing what color an individual was lurking in a suspicious vehicle. The race crap is so old. Any race needs to own up to the indisputable hard facts of who is committing the crimes. At the same time the people that are crying racism are having crimes committed against them by the same people that they are hollowing racism for. Some people just don’t get it

    • Really Fat Harry? How about you get off your fatness and call the police yourself since you are the person to have seen them.

    • Sherriff Harry Lee would have kids pulled over while walking around neighborhoods they did not live in…wish he could be re-incarnated…he kicked ass and took names..we need someone like that. If someone is hanging around where they don’t live , then what are they doing? In NOLA we know the answer..

  5. I was born and raised uptown. We moved to Metairie in 1976 because it was getting bad back then. We had things stolen from us back then. Today it’s the same old thing,the same people, just more of it.Too bad uptown has become what it is because of the crime. We lived in a great area, but were surrounded by criminals passing through our neighborhood. My family really misses uptown, but none of us would ever move back.

  6. If the perpetuation of criminality–and the continued assault on quality of life in New Orleans–was fixable, then why hasn’t it been?

    Nothing much changes. It’s almost impossible to not be pessimistic. I’d ask what the tipping point is–what singular event will enact widespread change–but then I’d sound incredibly naive.

    It is what it is. A feature that comes with the territory.

  7. Nothing anyone can do, say,or what ever program anyone implements will change anything. It starts with parenting. You have criminals parenting these children. How do you think they are going to come out? Children are products of their environment. The only people that can change anything is the criminals themselves. They have got to want to change. They are just like anyone else with a problem. I come from a great family. I’m one of 11 children. Dad worked sometimes 4 jobs to support us. Mom stayed home. 11 children was my parents choice, and they paid for there choice. We were taught right from wrong. All 11 of us turned out ok. None of us robbed, raped, burglarized, or murdered anyone. We should gather up all of the criminals, and place them in their own city to commit crimes on each other. I’m just saying from my observations from the peanut gallery.

  8. My door was kicked in at 1407 Napoleon Ave on Monday afternoon between 2 and 5. They stole a playstation 3 with an apple sticker on it, as well as other things. I will pay $500 dollars to anyone with information that leads to an arrest. 504-913-8145

  9. Instead of calling each other names and insulting each other, why don’t you just cooperate with the police to get these scum off the streets. You seem to be divided and that is the key to the “success” of the criminals in the area. Combine your anger and racist remarks to the greater good. Face FACTS and stop hiding behind some political correct nonsense. You are at WAR.

  10. The problem with calling NOPD on suspicious people is that they don’t show. Called the cops the other day on some crazy looking guy acting weird and they did not show at all. Of course with only 13 or so cops for the entire second district on any given shift is it any wonder they don’t show up?

    Pathetic. The real question is why is Serpas still the chief? Things have deteriorated during his watch yet there he is.

  11. 1400 block of Napoleon ave. that’s my old neighborhood. It has been 36 years since we moved out. Still has not changed, except it has gotten worse.

  12. We need to keep some of the trillions of dollars that the politicians are stealing, oh I mean spending on the war efforts around the world to fight our own wars here. Of coarse they would not do that, they are making so much more money overseas. Just think what we could accomplish if we had all that money.

  13. Part of the problem is the absolute predictability of NOPD. Staffede low, doing the same old same old. As pointed out kids are products of their environment, but still and all these are CHOICES they’re making. They dont’ respect anything because they first don’t respect themselves. Add to that they have NO FEAR of anything. God, Hell, or an armed victim. Doesn’t matter. It truly is a lost generation. And it is cyclical. These kids are having kids, and when they finally do go to jail for an extended visit or get killed in their foolishness, their children will likely grow up to fall into the same ways partially because that’s what mom or dad did but also because whoever raised delinquent mom or dad is now likely rearing grandbaby and guess what? They’re not reading the latest parenting books, because we as a race make the same mistakes; they will “parent” grandbaby like they did mom or dad.

    BUT DON’T BE FOOLED. Crime happens everywhere. New Orleans has its problems, but so do the surrounding cities and parishes. There’s a unparalleled desensitization in the world today, and it isn’t showing any signs of quieting.

    What will change this is a change in the culture and that only. Better and more police? Maybe. An improved court system? Possibly. Certainly the improved school systems post K will make a significant impact over time, but look at the ages of these kids. Sixteen. Seventeen. Katrina was 7 years ago. These kids were 9 and 10 then. At this point their moral center was well in place, and Katrina likely magnified it.

    Frankly the city is maybe in the best place it’s been in for the past 30-40 years. These crimes while unacceptable can be diminished, but really only if the school systems are allowed to grow as they have. Too the biggest and best change has to come from within and no one can choose that but the individual. How do you break the cycle and change the culture? That’s the real question.

    • One of the things that is makes the decision to stay here difficult (for me) is the fact that this level of crime is NOT happening everywhere. Nationally, violent crime is down and most American cities are safer than they have been in a long time. Meanwhile, we have much, much higher rates that continue to rise. And yes, NOLA suburbs and surrounding parishes also have much higher rates than the national average. I do have high hopes that the improved education will lead to results in the long term, but it’s still scary to raise my children here in the meanwhile.

  14. There is a daring need for money and a survival nature of life that the local economy does not seen to accommodate young African American people on New Orleans. All along we were taught that if you go to school and get a college degree you can have a good or better life than that you come from. But reality shows that the well paying jobs and opportunities are well tucked away for the young white citizens and the black are forced out it the city or to “get it how they live!” Let loose the paying jobs and careers and you will see young people proud to go to work and earn a decent living. Peanuts don’t go very far in this day in age.

  15. Dear Creighton: You could not be more full of crap if you tried. Let’s see. My boss is black and makes double my salary. My secretary is black and has a cushy, well paying job. In fact, 4 of the 9 professionals in my office are black and do very well. None of these folks “get it how they live.” They are educated and hard working people how “get it” because they earn it.

    If you have nothing more than leftist BS to contribute, may I suggest you keep your asinine comments to yourself.

    Have a great day!

  16. These thugs should be tried as adults. And peope need to start fighting back and arming themselves, not waiting for the police to show up or what the comunity should come together to do…just what? There have been so many ‘Night(s) out Against Crime’ and Community meetings, what has it done? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!! It is time get armed and get focused. Crime is Crime no matter what color you are.

    • I agree with you 100% Arm yourself and take matters into your own hands, because the NOPD sure won’t be doing anything for you.

  17. Call your city councilperson Susan Guidry. She is more concerned with sending out NOPD officers for underage drinking then armed robberies. She is the problem. Please dont vote for her.

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