By Jeff Thomas
Some unsolicited advice to Mayor Elect Latoya Cantrell and the new city council. Change the narrative about crime in NOLA. We do not need to hire more police officers. Independent analysis shows we have enough now. The department does need a major overhaul, but not more officers. But more importantly, police do not impact crime rates. To stop crime, we need to invest in our citizens. Not cameras. Men with good paying jobs do not commit crime at high rates.
I know we are down here in good ole Louisiana, where our pride in having the best music festivals outweighs any shame in being 49th or 50th in education. After all music is universal, and how smart do you really have to be to work a minimum wage job in the tourist industry? Laissez le bon temps rouler! It’s French Quarter fest time.
But metro area crime is now rising fastest in the French Quarter. Not petty crime, like- “I bet I can tell you where you got dem shoes” kinda crimes, but shootings and muggings on Bourbon Street kinda crimes. Remarkably we can fix the NOPD and permanently reduce crime within your first year.
NOPD RIGHT SIZE WRONG STRUCTURE
Currently the ranks in the NOPD hover around 1,100 officers. And around 330 are used to patrol the streets. While the number of patrol officers is alarmingly low, the bigger picture is that the department is top heavy. Current Chief Micheal Harrison has pulled some non-rank officers from desk duty and pushed them to the streets, but he maintains a structure a of management cops behind desks department.
There are many methods used to determine the number of police officers a city needs, but the Department of Justice, the International Association of Police Chiefs, and just about every scholarly approach are all in agreement that the best number of officers on patrol in any city is around 2.5 to 3 per 1000 people. That would mean New Orleans only needs a force of around 1050 officers. The rule of 60%, another unanimously agreed upon concept, means that New Orleans should have 630 patrol officers and 420 supervisors. The NOPD has 450 patrol officers and 600 supervisors.
The NOPD needs new structure not new officers. The experienced brass need to go on patrol. Rather than spending money recruiting new officers, we should efficiently use the officers we have in the department.
The real problem is the city’s allocation of resources. The NOPD is the biggest drain on the budget of the city of New Orleans. Throughout his term in office, Mayor Mitch Landrieu devoted over 60% of the city’s budget to the NOPD and related services. But spending money on the department is the single most ineffective way to stop crime. Still today in 2018 New Orleans, LA. locks up more of its citizens than anywhere else in the entire world. Yet the problem of crime persists. Spending money on locking up young black men in New Orleans is a monumental waste of money. IT DOES NOTHING TO STOP CRIME!!!! And the police expenditure means real solutions have no money available.
Jobs Not Jails
We need more jobs specifically for black men in New Orleans. The persistent focus on locking up black men (80% of the incarcerated men in LA are African American), rather than investing in job training and jobs for black men perpetuates the problem (43% unemployment amongst black men in NOLA).
Investing in a real jobs creation program – like eliminating blight across the city by training men to transform property into beautiful homes and providing them the option to own the property would not only reduce crime and blight but would increase property taxes collected by the city. Instead the city has invested in a slick recruitment campaign to hire more police officers in a top heavy, inefficient department that admits it can do little to stop crime.
We see videos of muggings and see shootings on parade routes and remember the excuses fed to us by the Landrieu administration and think more officers would solve the problem.
But hiring more patrol officers is not the answer. We spend too much on NOPD. Better management, more boots on the ground instead of behind a desk will immediately improve the efficiency and quality of the NOPD.
Investment in job training and fast hiring will drastically reduce crime. Jobs where a man can provide good housing and food and education and the pursuit of happiness. Invest $40 million in that and do not hire any more police officers and crime will be dramatically reduced in New Orleans. That racist notion that black men are inherently bad people is a lie that costs too much!