[StBernard] Will Crime Swallow New Orleans?

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Mon Jun 25 20:09:17 EDT 2007

Will Crime Swallow New Orleans?

Yesterday, the Louisiana House Judiciary Committee in Baton Rouge, upon
which I serve, heard testimony from agencies actively involved in crime
fighting in New Orleans; including the Metropolitan Crime Commission, Crime
Stoppers and Victims Against Crime. Not so coincidentally, just the day
before, the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington conducted hearings on
crime in New Orleans, with the panel's Chairman calling crime in New Orleans
the most serious threat to the city's post-hurricane recovery.

It seems that the entire nation agrees that crime is a serious problem in
New Orleans and strong, decisive measures must be taken ... that is everyone
it seems but the Orleans Parish criminal justice system.

At the hearing in Washington, representatives of the criminal justice system
made the usual excuses, lack of resources, a crime lab that wasn't working
and on and on. But as Senator Vitter pointed out, wasn't there $50 million
appropriated for crime prevention in the Gulf Coast area? What happened to
those resources?

In Baton Rouge, the independent crime agencies cut right to the chase,
pointing out just how ineffective the Orleans Parish criminal justice
system. To being with, most of the arrests being made were for misdemeanors
and traffic violations, extraordinary in a city which is the murder capital
of the nation. To make matters worse, less than half of the felony arrests
are accepted for prosecution... and then is still even a smaller percentage
who are actually convicted. You do the math. The chance for felon being
arrested and prosecuted under the current criminal justice system is quite
remote and many are quite happy to keep engaging in criminal behavior with
the odds being so heavily in their favor.

According to the testimony, a major problem in prosecution is finding
witnesses to come forward. Unlike the popular crime shows, most crimes are
not solved by elaborate forensic evidence but rather quite simply by
eyewitnesses. However many don't trust the system and are either
intimidated from testifying or decide to take justice into their own hands.
There needs to be a greater level of trust between citizens and the police,
which both sides need to work on.

Other testimony tied crime into lack of good education and opportunity for
our young people as a root cause of crime. Educational vouchers were
recommended as a possible remedy the failure of the Orleans public school
system, which was also in the news recently with its former president
pleading guilty yesterday to receiving bribes. You may have noticed the
article as it was right next to one about long time corporate citizen
Tidewater contemplating leaving because of (surprise!) crime and education
problems. The comment about vouchers caught my attention since I have been
a strong sponsor of voucher legislation over the pst few years. Although we
have had some success in the legislature, our efforts were always short
circuited by those who defended the indefensible status quo and the victims
were the thousands who lost their opportunity for a quality education, an
increasing their chances of resorting to crime.

Hopefully, the education and criminal justice system will respond before
crime actually does swallow up New Orleans.



The Dead Pelican <http://www.thedeadpelican.com/>

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