Throughout New Orleans’ rich, cultural history, crime and violence have always been a large blot in its manuscript. It stands alone on the page, ripping apart families and driving discrimination up the wall. However, this also means that is has gotten more attention towards its eradication than other problems in the city. 2019, in particular, has struck a record breaking low for crime in New Orleans.
Violent crime has not had lower numbers since the 1970s, which seemed to give the city something to celebrate. My own family in particular was discussing this because of the Night Out Against Crime. On August 6th, 2019, the nation celebrated its 35th Night Out Against Crime to raise community awareness on crime in their neighborhood. With the night fast approaching, I was questioning how accurate the dropping statistics really were. Just because there have not been as many arrests nowadays does not mean there has been a decrease in crime. Arrest rates may have dropped, but that does not include crime that was not reported or violence unknown to the police. As the curious person I was, I wanted to figure this out for myself.
Every year, my neighborhood throws a block party on the Night Out Against Crime, and I thought this would be a perfect place to ask regular New Orleanians if they truly felt like the crime drop accurately depicted their neighborhood. As soon as I started asking around for interviews, I was pointed in the direction of a local politician to get a governmental view: Mack Cormier, who was running for the Louisiana House of Representatives, to represent Belle Chasse.
While Belle Chasse was not specifically New Orleans, he had lived in New Orleans for some time in the past and Louisiana his whole life. The only time in his life he had thought about owning a gun was when he lived in New Orleans East, when a man was shooting someone right on his front yard. He did not have any recent experience of crime in New Orleans, but his past experiences have affected how he carries himself around the city. “You have to be a vigilant person. When I, when I’m out, and I go out alone all the time, when I’m walking past two people I don’t know, I might be strapping my eyes, on that side. In case somebody swings a brick at me.” So even though we might actually have a lower crime rate than in the past, it would still take some time for the people to relax enough in accordance to that drop.
The next person I interviewed was a woman who had lived in New Orleans her entire life and is committed to the city. She herself has felt a large drop in crime in the city with this new generation, but also a harsher way of life. “You got a different generation. A generation is the key. The generation right here, they got no compassion… They trying to do gun control on guns, but it’s not the guns who kill people. The people with the guns are what kill people.”
To my surprise, she felt like more police involvement with the community would help solve these problems. That the youth needed to be educated and given a leader who would guide them. It was really interesting to see different views on the police then the large backlash they have in the media. Her view was not focused on the amount of crime committed, but more on the attitude of the kids who were committing the crimes. “They got to educate the young people coming up. They have no education. Really, they have no leaders.” She felt that, even though crime was dropping, the neighborhoods were overrun by children with no goals.
As a teenager in New Orleans, I can certainly see where she is coming from. It is hard to pinpoint a leader that we know, someone who we can look to and confidently follow. Some days it may seem like we are all floating aimlessly, not sure whether it even matters whether the crime rates drop or not. After all, the same core problems are still there. Black kids are still more likely than white to not go to college. New Orleans still has some of the most violent crimes in America. The only difference between now and then seems to be the numbers.
However, I cannot say that there are no leaders. A NOPD Detective said she was confident in the future of New Orleans. She has been working as a police officer for five years in Algiers, New Orleans. I wanted to see a police officer’s view on crime. The Detective believes that crime has dropped significantly in the city. While she cannot release any details of her cases, she says that the majority of cases they have to deal with are petty crimes and infractions. She does agree about more integration of community and the police department. She mentioned some days that people were allowed to come and talk with the police about concerns or suggestions they wanted to share with the police department.
They were also trying to expand kids’ knowledge with courses about crime awareness if they went to the station on certain days. There are still many serious issues inside the police department, but it seems like they are truly working to fix the gaps. The system may be broken, but I believe that the sure sign of a good future is recognizing the flaws and wanting to change. This conversation with the detective gave me hope for the future, that we would be able to work together to build a better tomorrow.