November 28, 2008...Last year, New
Orleans earned a rather unfortunate
title, the Murder Capital of the nation. Last week, the city reached another sad
milestone, the unenviable position of Crime Capital of the United
States. The CQ
Press report placed New
Orleans as the most violent city in
the country. The report used crime statistics in seven major categories and
calculated the rates based on population figures. Although CQ Press used a
disputed 2007 population estimate of New
Orleans, a higher census figure would not have
changed the ranking of New
Orleans as the Crime Capital.
This designation will certainly not help
the city recruit business or lure conventions. It will give people another
reason to leave New
Orleans. Since 1960, New
Orleans has lost half of its
population. In the early part of the century, New
Orleans was the third largest city
in the nation, while today it is ranked as the 60th largest city. While
Hurricane Katrina contributed to the population decline, other factors like a
high crime rate have led people to leave New
Orleans for the past four decades.
The leadership vacuum in New Orleans gives
no one a reason to move to New
Orleans. It is clear that the city
is not properly governed. Mayor Nagin has become a laughingstock who uses the
issue of race to divide the city, emulating controversial figures like Jesse
Jackson and Louis Farrakhan. Last week, Nagin attended a speech given by
Farrakhan despite the minister's hateful comments about whites, Jews and
Catholics. Recently, Nagin inaccurately portrayed comments of council member
Stacy Head as "crude race baiting." Even though he knew Head did not make racist
remarks, Nagin refused to apologize.
When former Orleans Parish District
Attorney Harry Connick called for the firing of Police Chief Warren Riley, Nagin
responded by claiming that that the NOPD leader had an "impeccable" record.
Under Riley's watch, crime has soared in New
Orleans and the dysfunctional
department has been embarrassed by misconduct among officers. There is also the
nagging problem of the property and evidence room. WDSU-TV Channel 6 did an
expose on the situation and discovered criminal evidence was being mishandled
and not properly stored, yet Riley declined to accept responsibility for this
crisis. To make matters worse, $19,000 in cash was stolen from the property and
evidence room, yet Riley had the gall to blame the problems on Hurricane
Katrina. Without properly stored evidence, it is difficult or impossible to
prosecute cases, so new District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro may have to deal with
even more problems than he realizes.
Like his boss Ray Nagin, Chief Riley never
accepts responsibility for his failings. When asked about the designation of
Orleans as the Crime Capital of the
blamed the bad public schools and the poverty in the city. Yet, other cities
have poor school systems and economic distress, yet are not seeing a massive
increase in crime.
During the 1990's, Richard Pennington was a
very effective Police Chief of New
Orleans. In that period, innovative
strategies were implemented such as community policing and public housing
substations. When Nagin was elected as Mayor and replaced Pennington as Police
Chief, it was the first in a long line of mistakes. Sadly, today, Nagin refuses
to take the corrective action at the NOPD that could improve the safety of each
citizen of New
Orleans is not only stuck with Riley
and Nagin for another 18 months, the city is stuck with incompetence, a poor
image and a high crime rate as well. The February 2010 election for Mayor of New
Orleans cannot get here soon enough.
Jeff Crouere is the Host of "Ringside Politics,"
which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:00 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station,
and 7 till 11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. He is the
Political Analyst for WGNO-TV ABC26 and the Political Editor for NewOrleans.com.
For more information, visit his web site at RingsidePolitics.com. E-mail him at