New Orleans' crime became a congressional issue this week during the confirmation hearing of the man nominated to lead the FBI, with U.S. Sen. John Kennedy describing the situation as a huge battle that the city is losing.
"We have an extraordinary crime problem in New Orleans," Kennedy said during the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Christopher Wray, who President Donald Trump has nominated lead the FBI. "We're rapidly becoming the murder and armed robbery capital of the western hemisphere."
"Can I count on you to give us a little advice and help? We're wrestling with a huge crime problem, and we're losing," Kennedy continued.
In a follow up statement, Kennedy said he worries that New Orleans is on track to become "the next Detroit."
Wray, who served as assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division from 2003 to 2005 during the George W. Bush administration, said he would use all tools available to assist the city.
"You can count on me to take a hard look and figure out how we can be more effective in New Orleans, just like we need to figure out how we can be more effective in every city that's targeted by violent crime," he said.
Half-way through 2017, more than 350 people have been shot in New Orleans. Last month, the city marked its most violent day of the year with 13 people shot -- including two killed.
But the congressional hearing exchange drew rebuke from New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who has been increasingly drawing the national spotlight as his term nears its end. He sent a letter to Kennedy accusing the senator of political grandstanding on the issue.
"Louisiana has a history of Senators who lead and find consensus across the aisle on the most important issues we face," wrote Landrieu, whose sister, Mary, was a U.S. senator for nearly two decades. "I sincerely hope that you will step up and tackle the tough issues facing our country: lower the cost of health insurance instead of eliminating coverage for 425,000 of your constituents; increase funding so local governments can hire more police, don’t cut it; instead of scapegoating undocumented immigrants, get to work reforming our immigration system; and lastly, invest in infrastructure so we can put people back to work rebuilding our roads, modernizing our ports and protecting our homes from flooding."
Kennedy, R-Madisonville, has set his sights on New Orleans' crime in recent weeks, repeatedly raising the issue. Kennedy, who spent 16 years as state treasurer before he was elected to the U.S. Senate last fall, is considered a potential challenger to Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, in the 2019 governor's race.
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