On Thursday, July 6th, Mayor Mitch Landrieu gave his final State of the City Address. While the City of New Orleans has improved in many areas, including a more-balanced budget, and a $2.4 billion Capital Improvement Plan, crime in New Orleans remains rampant.
Lately, violent tourist-centered crimes in the French Quarter have been on the rise. Crime remains even worse throughout the City. In fact, in a joint report between Nola.com and NOPD, 365 people have been killed since the start of 2017. That averages to about two people wounded or killed per day.
As crime continues to skyrocket, who or what is responsible for New Orleans High Crime Statistic?
State of the Union Address – Landrieu’s Prospective
“Seven years ago, when I gave my first State of the City Address, the basic message is that we inherited a mess and we needed to change course,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said last week at his final State of the City Address.
The mayor noted the City has overcome a large deficit, a dysfunctional police department and “a mess of epic proportions.” One of the most important thing that will challenge New Orleans is climate change and costal deterioration, he added.
Landrieu said the next largest problem after the environment is crime. Over the last seven years the Landrieu administration has fought crime by increasing funding for public safety and homeland security preparedness. As of 2017, Landrieu boasted a 64 percent community satisfaction rate of NOPD, which is a City record.
“The people of New Orleans know that NOPD cannot solve all of our problems, even with shootings and murders,” Landrieu said.
Mentioning 1999 as being one of New Orleans lowest years for crime, that figure was still six times higher than the national average. “We need to get rid of the root cause of the crimes,” Landrieu said, bringing up the accolades of his administration’s NOLA for Life Crime Reduction Strategy.
“Here is the truth,” Landrieu said. “If our young people don’t have good opportunities, if there are no other pathways to real prosperity than crime and drugs, we will continue to be cursed with this same violence that the City of New Orleans has been cursed with for generations. There are only two options at this juncture—either obey the law and maybe grow up to be a Boston Drug Crimes Lawyer or stay a felon and go on to become a recidivist.”
Landrieu said that the City has increased its efforts on justice reform, and has doubled-down on providing better trained, managed, and paid police. But it doesn’t stop there.
“One of the greatest lessons I have learned as mayor is that after so many decades of violence and dysfunction, old patterns of behavior are hard to break, no matter how much your throw at it,” Landrieu said. “The easy thing to do is to point fingers and start blaming each other.
The mayor said there is no quick fix to the problem, but the entire City needs to take responsibility for its high crime rate.
Non-profits Fighting Back
Poverty, lack of opportunities, and illiteracy are some of the reasons that many people turn to a life of crime, according to statistics on the Youth Empowerment Program in New Orleans.
“I think there are a plethora of issues as to why folks are in vulnerable positions and underserved populations,” said Jerome Jupiter, the Deputy Director of Youth Empowerment Project. “We look at how we can try to shift that and be more positive and helping young people succeed in life.” Jupiter noted that hard and soft skills are the most important thing to have to deter people from a life of crime.
“Eighty-one percent of people that come to YEP come on their own volition. They want better lives. They want to be better parents. They want to earn livable wages to strengthen ties to communities,” Jupiter said.
Providing underserved population with learning opportunities to sharpen trades and communication skills is one of the most important things YEP provides, Jupiter said.
“It builds folks self-confidence and self-efficacy on what they can accomplish. Often, many people, including African-Americans, don’t see models in their lives who are often successful. That keeps people making unhealthy and unwise circumstances,” he added.
YEP offers free services to youth and young adults to ensure they practice skills to maintain gainful employment. Some of YEP’s strongest programs include its mentoring arm, and working line program, which both creates a model of success for the youth at hand.
Psychology role in crime
“Most people are not going to come into the world thinking I have to rob people,” said Brian Turner, an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at Xavier University of Louisiana.
Turner’s research interests include the interaction of culture and psychology; Social Justice and Equality; and a broad range of diversity, multicultural, and inclusion issues.
“There is a cross landscape that, due to a dire circumstance, will expose a person to criminal behavior to which they decide to engage in that activity,” Turner said.
The assistant professor of psychology noted that a person’s state of mind can be damaged by being underserved in society. That puts people in the position to commit crimes against other people. “People think about themselves first. If I need to rob you to eat, then that’s what I’m going to do,” he added.
“The more deficient you are in society, the more likely you are Black,” Turner added, speaking on statistics of Black well-being.
Turner believed the movie “Juice” (1992) put crime in perspective: Once you hold the gun you have power. In this case, many deprived people confuse criminalization with power.
“The first thing we should do is look at economic equality, reduce mass incarceration from Black people,” Turner said, thinking of ways to reverse the cycle of criminalization.
The professor also believes that the Healthcare System needs to better serve the needs of the African-American Community. In the United States, there is more emphasis on physical health than mental health services in the Black Community, Turner said.
“The Healthcare System is not run by African-Americans. The system is always going to go against us as a people.”