On Saturday night, two men were brutally assaulted on my New Orleans doorstep in the Vieux Carré. One of the men was tackled and trapped in a chokehold. The other victim was sucker-punched and knocked out, a pool of blood collecting on the pavement beneath him. Their assailants, cowardly and remorseless criminals, had attacked them from behind. They then snatched their wallets and cellphones before fleeing into the night.
As of Tuesday, the second victim remained in the hospital. Now, his future is uncertain. All for a wallet and cellphone.
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This is not the first time we have seen such a vicious attack in the city, and it will not be the last. But does it matter that this happened at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night, on a well-lit block with multiple security cameras? Have we really surrendered New Orleans so completely that criminals can brutalize our visitors and residents with impunity? Do we dare take back our streets?
After countless conversations with well-meaning and good New Orleans Police Department officers, I have come to the conclusion that it will be impossible to take back our streets when our officers are in handcuffs. I’m referring, of course, to the NOPD consent decree, which privileges protocol over policing, binding our officers while criminals run free. And make no mistake: in a city where violent crime is on the rise, an aggressive and proactive police force — one that is free to do its job — is an absolute necessity.
One of the consent decree’s problems is that officers feel their ability to interact with citizens and identify criminals on the street is reduced. Eight years ago, the primary problem with the NOPD may have been constitutional policing, but today, it is effective policing. The consent decree has accomplished its job, and it’s now time to abolish it.
Spotting troublemakers is not rocket science. When police spot stalkers tracking visitors in the French Quarter, there's a 100 percent chance that suspicious characters are up to no good. We need to empower our police force to identify and prevent criminal activity before it’s too late with an aggressive, but constitutional, interaction.
To do this, we must abolish the consent decree. In the meantime, if the consent decree is costing the city millions of dollars, why don’t we cut the monitoring and replace it with spending on actual policing? The alternative is a continuing slide toward chaos, toward more muggings and rapes and murders. We now have a strong, independent and well-funded Independent Police Monitor who can replace the millions we spend on lawyers to monitor the consent decree.
A man was left in critical condition after he and another victim were attacked and robbed by four men in the French Quarter on Saturday night, according to New Orleans police.
Fortunately, there are additional steps we can take to stem this tide of senseless violence. Most importantly, we need to complement the NOPD with a private security force in the French Quarter and the Central Business District.
People will probably ask how we can fund such a force. But I ask, how can we not? More than 87,000 of our citizens depend on hospitality jobs, which depend on a safe Vieux Carré and CBD.
To address this very real violence, New Orleans must employ the same resources it levied against the perceived threats to the Confederate monuments’ removal. According to news reports, the price tag for extra security for the removal totaled more than $1 million. The addition of 100 security officers in the French Quarter and Central Business District is a necessary step for safety and peace in a city besieged by crime. And it will allow much-needed existing NOPD officers to remain on their beats in neighborhoods across the city.
Finally, while local leaders work toward generational change in the areas of education and incarceration to permanently end the culture of violence, there are other immediate steps the city must take to improve local safety. With a need for a minimum of 500 additional police officers, we cannot achieve this minimum through recruiting classes of a few dozen. Therefore, I believe the city should raise officer pay and make 500 lateral hires within the next six months. The immediate addition of 500 officers, working without the constraints of a crippling and expensive consent decree, is crucial to solving this crisis of public safety.
These are opinions I have held inside for quite some time. But with the bloody events of Saturday night, which occurred on my front door, I felt I could no longer remain silent. These suggestions are not pipe dreams. They are workable solutions to a problem that has become all too frighteningly real for so many in New Orleans, from visitors to business owners to residents in the heart of our city’s historic core.
Update, 5:25 p.m. Monday: New Orleans police have made one arrest in the case of two Boston-…