On Wednesday, the nation came together to protest the Internet protection legislation such as SOPA and PIPA by blacking out certain websites and content to demonstrate how the acts would personally affect our Internet usage if passed. The online community joined forces to protect their businesses, right to free content and information, and cat videos.
So what will it take to get our community to come together to further protect our quality of life, businesses, and city from the violence that is happening in our own city?
We continue to fight so hard every day to change the negative perception of our beloved city, create new opportunities, and drive our growing industries, but somehow the year has started with increasing crime statistics and warfare. One has to wonder if the efforts to bring new industries and businesses to New Orleans will eventually become futile if this trend continues.
While many have complained, gathered at community meetings, and made their own suggestions for solutions, this is the time when the community needs to band together to make a change. We can not simply place a curfew on minors in the French Quarter, deprive people of their second amendment by collecting all the guns, call in the National Guards for a military takeover of the city, or sprinkle rainbows and sunshine over our crippling neighborhoods. There is no time to wait until the problem starts to directly impact every individual, as the growing crime rate is already personally affecting your life more than any Internet censorship will.
Our crime rate has been consistently increasing over the years in New Orleans, and in the first 20 days of the new year, we have already seen an overwhelming increase in the number of murders, specifically. But why take a stand now when the increasing crime rate from the previous years have only shown increases of about 5 percent across the board? Now, those consistent rising numbers in thefts and burglaries are turning into a large number of murders and warfare in our city.
In the 1990s, crime rates in New York City significantly dropped during Mayor Giuliani’s administration with help from his first police commissioner, William J. Bratton. One reason was the decision to implement the “broken window” approach to law enforcement.
The theory, which was initially implemented by George L. Kelling of the New York Transit Authority in the mid 1980s, suggests that there is correlation between vandalism and high crime in an area of urban disorder. It states that monitoring and maintaining an urban environment in good condition subsequently stops further vandalism, as well as an increase of larger, more serious crimes. During a time that included a high rate of violent crimes in New York City subway stations, Kelling cleaned the stations and trains, and committed to maintaining them in good condition by ensuring that no subway car ever left the station with any graffiti on it. Eventually, as the graffiti and vandalism stopped, so did the underground violence.
Bratton continued to support his strategy by implementing aggressive policing of smaller crimes, such as vandalism, throughout the city. During that time, the amount of misdemeanor arrests rose by 70 percent in New York City, indicating that there was zero tolerance for small crimes that could escalade to larger ones and also further create an environment that was susceptible to both. Within the time that misdemeanor arrests had risen 10 percent, robberies dropped 2.5 percent, and motor vehicle theft declined by 1.6 in New York City.
While ultimately it’s up to the mayor to increase police numbers and execute aggressive policing using a zero tolerance approach, add more streetlights, turn abandoned parks into dog parks, turn blighted buildings into schools, create afterschool and career development programs for the youth, and increase security near neighborhoods with a high density of bars (hint), there are a few things we can do as citizens to help keep New Orleans safe.
1. Crack down on the gateway crimes: While vandalism, theft, and murders are not the same crime; they are on the same continuum. Allowing misdemeanors to go unpunished only creates an environment that is tolerant of either crime, so report any small crime to the police.
2. Clean up: Keep the city clean by starting with your neighborhood, specifically during times of high volume tourism such as Mardi Gras and national sporting events. We can’t expect our visitors to treat our city with respect if we don’t set a precedent. Also, work with your neighborhood or community to spread awareness, and create beautification efforts to clean the graffiti and pick up the litter in order to help improve the quality of life for our communities and residents.
3. Light your street: New Orleans is not known for its well-lit streets. In fact, most are narrow and dark, making it easily accessible for people to lurk in your neighborhood. If you can’t get the city to add more streetlights in your area, work with your neighbors to make sure that your homes are all well enough illuminated to light up the street.
4. Treat everyone with respect: Violent people aren’t born with a natural tendency to abuse or even kill. It is built-up aggression from enduring years of being mistreated or being taught to mistreat others. Set an example by treating others with respect, and working with your community and neighbors rather than against them.
5. Write letters: Start letter writing campaigns and partner with groups in the community to work towards making the improvements New Orleans needs. If you have the ideas; don’t be afraid to suggest them. Work with your neighbors and attend neighborhood meetings to turn abandoned parks into well-lit dog parks, add more lights to your street, turn blighted buildings into something meaningful that can foster the youth in our community, and ultimately help New Orleans become the city it can and should be.
Let’s become the city that care never forgot and take a stand.
Adrianna Lopez is the entrepreneur editor at NolaVie.