New Orleans: A City In Dire Need Of Help

10.02.07 10 years ago 16 Comments

We need a surge in New Orleans.”- John Edwards

Author Ethan Brown once quoted Chuck D’s famous line – “When I get mad, I put it on a pad” – on his website.

Brown is living by those words now more than ever. Shocked by the lack of media attention given to the current problems in one of America’s most unique cities, Brown recently relocated from New York City to New Orleans to offer up-close and personal accounts of criminal justice issues in what is now the murder capital of the United States. Since his move, he plans on covering everything from day-to-day murder stats to dysfunction in the NOPD and Orleans Parish DA’s office. Most importantly, he wants to delve into what lessons, if any, can be learned from New Orleans at a time when homicide rates are rising in big cities like Baltimore and Philadelphia. In addition to this, he will be busy working on two potential books. TSS is honored to have Ethan Brown break down some of the most pressing issues and possible solutions for a city in a state of crisis with the Crew’s DJ Sorce-1.

Ethan Brown on What’s Wrong With New Orleans…

1. Trends in Violent Crime in New Orleans

I lived in NYC in the early 1990s and remember staying with a friend in the East Village. He had to call the cops everyday to get the crack heads moved from outside his door. That moment, which was really bad, pales in comparison to what’s happening in New Orleans now. The murder rate here is nearly 80 murders per 100,000 people. That’s well above Compton.

TSS readers should know a few important things. The population of New Orleans was well above 500,000 pre-Katrina. The population now is less than 300,000. Basically, a sizeable chunk of the population is simply being killed off. Sometimes, in bad months, New Orleans has as many as one murder a day. In 2006, New Orleans was the murder capital of the US. In 2007, the murder rate is nearly 20% higher than it was in 2006.

2. The Leadership Crisis in New Orleans

In terms of criminal justice, the city has almost always been a disaster. In 2005, just before Katrina, the murder rate was on its way back up after a few years of decline. What we’re seeing now unfortunately is mostly a continuation of that trend. We’re also seeing a huge crisis in leadership. The DA’s office is in total disarray and prosecutors are leaving in droves. The honest, horrible truth is that the indicators for the immediate future are all terrible. The DA isn’t going anywhere even though there have been calls for his dismissal. Mayor Nagin was re-elected in 2006 so his term lasts until 2010. The leadership crisis will continue and meanwhile hundreds will die. Mayor Nagin is awful. Like George Bush, he’s all about campaigning but not very interested in actual governance. He clearly does not understand how bad the crime situation is.

3. Problems with the NOPD

The main issue with New Orleans law enforcement is that they practice an outmoded version of policing. They’re from a pre-community policing era. The NOPD just doesn’t have a presence on the streets, and that’s a huge problem. It’s the Mayor’s, District Attorney’s, and City Council’s responsibility to start fixing this problem. Some members of the City Council seem to get it, but the Mayor and DA do not. It’s not really entirely an issue of funds; it’s about leadership and changing the policing style. It’s important to remember that 2005 pre-Katrina was set to be a really bad year for New Orleans murder-wise. So we’re just continuing that upswing.

…and Ethan Brown On What Needs to Happen to Reduce Violent Crime

1. What Can Be Done to Help Save Lives

In 2006, the National Guard was sent in. But that’s obviously not a long lasting solution, so it’s hard to say what can be done on the national level. Anyone with local ties here should be pushing hard for a new DA and they should be out there talking about the hundreds of black men losing their lives in New Orleans. A new DA would likely bring good prosecutors back to the DA’s office.

We also need pro-active policing. That means that cops need to go out there and do foot patrols and not just sit in their patrol cars waiting to respond to crimes. The NOPD must start mapping out hotspots for crimes like murder and armed robbery. There are retaliatory killings in the drug business, which happen a lot here, and then there are criminals who target certain spots for various reasons. A lot of the crime down here happens in little clusters. One example is the residential end of the French Quarter, which is really quiet in the summer and often very dark and desolate. Criminals targeted that area to commit a ton of armed robberies and muggings. So, this summer, robberies in that area were up nearly 40%.

2. What Hip-Hop Icons with Ties to New Orleans Can Do

I spoke with the sister of a prominent murder victim and she said that when her brother was in the hospital after he was shot the attitude was like, “Oh well, who cares, another dead black man?” I would ask cultural icons like Lil’ Wayne and more importantly civil rights leaders like Al Sharpton, “Is this acceptable to you? Are you willing to let this continue?” I should also add that it’s not just black men who are getting killed. One of the biggest murder cases this year involved the slaying of an independent film maker named Helen Hill. So it’s affecting everybody. This kind of violence shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone. Your browser may not support display of this image.

3. What Readers Can Do to Help

Support politicians like John Edwards who pledge to make New Orleans a priority (Video clip). And, this obviously seems weird to say at the end of a piece like this, but please come down here and visit and volunteer for a day. Do whatever you can to make sure people don’t forget about New Orleans. Everything that’s happening here from crime to infrastructure issues is just a more extreme example of what’s happening in a lot of other cities in America.

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Ethan Brown is re-launching his website this week to focus specifically on the issues going on in New Orleans. Please support his efforts by going to www.ethan-brown.com. His new book, Snitch, will be in stores soon.

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