by Arthur Hunter
Recently the Wall Street Journal printed a headline stating, “New Orleans Has America’s No.1 Murder Rate. ‘We’re in a Crisis”.
A headline that not only affects our hospitality industry, but also the safety and psyche of the people who live and work here.
If we want to fix this crisis, consider the following solutions:
First, breakdown the murders to determine who, why and where. Thereafter, you can develop a tactical plan to target the violent crimes being committed in our city.
If the murders are drug related, then the NOPD along with the FBI/DEA must identify, investigate, and infiltrate major drug dealers.
If the murders are connected to domestic violence, then the Mayor, NOPD, Sheriff, District Attorney, judges, healthcare providers, and schools, should be integral parts of a comprehensive holistic policy shepherded by the Family Justice Center to address domestic violence.
But if the murders are linked to armed robbery and carjacking, then more officers must be strategically deployed to hot spots.
It is a tactic I recommended in a Guest Column, “An all-hands-on-deck approach to crime”(The Advocate July 2021), which was recently echoed by a study from the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation.
If the murders are what I call, arguments with guns, such as road rage, landlord and tenant arguing over rent, or a young person feeling “disrespected”, because something was said, then we need a strong proactive police presence, which can deter someone from using a weapon.
We can support adults known as violence interrupters, to step in and help de-escalate arguments, particularly among young people, before they get out of control.
Second, we have to address some internal issues within the NOPD, namely recruitment, morale and retention.
Related: A Real Solution for Crime
The NOPD must reach out to veterans’ organizations and local historically Black universities. The department can recruit and improve community relations, particularly in light of the George Floyd demonstrations.
The NOPD must work closely with Civil Service. We need improved entry testing turnaround, improved coordination of the personal field investigation and background testing for timely onboarding.
Streamline the application process. Applicants successfully complete the Civil Service testing, cursory requirements and placed on the hiring register. They must be interviewed immediately to determine whether the department should invest resources with applicants.
The NOPD can improve morale and increase retention. The department must implement objective criteria and a written examination to become a detective and when applying to specialized units.
This would end the perception of, “who you know, rather than what you know”, for advancement in the department.
How to Fix the Murder Crisis
Third, we need more police officers. But even if we net 100 officers yearly, it would be 5 years to reach 1,400 officers.
Consequently, we need to do things now to reduce and prevent crime.
We should implement early childhood learning in the public elementary schools and daycare centers across the city.
Our youth (6-18yo) should have the opportunity to attend summer camps with enrichment programs in the neighborhood public schools. And older kids must get paying jobs to be camp counselors.
We should reconfigure NORD. Primarily, but not exclusively, focus on four areas-sports, technology, music and art. Also we must bring back park supervisors to individual playgrounds to keep kids active throughout the year. We can work with high schools to teach skilled trades, technology and entrepreneurship.
Our colleges and universities have the resources, skills and knowledge to make this happen.
If we implement these solutions, we will be safe. Also we improve our children’s academic skills and economic opportunities. This is important because when you reduce juvenile crime, you reduce adult crime.
We don’t have to live like this. Our crisis can be fixed and with the right people, having the right ideas doing the right thing, we can have solutions, not excuses. This is how to fix the murder crisis.
Former Judge Arthur L. Hunter, Jr. was a New Orleans police officer and served as Chief Judge, and judge of Mental Health Court, Reentry Court and Veteran’s Treatment Court.