If you’ve had a relatively minor problem and called for an NOPD officer, you’re not happy if nobody comes. And if the relatively minor problem isn’t that minor, such as theft or other property crime, you’re not going to be happy at all — and to some extent, the New Orleans Police Department and its political masters in City Hall are now feeling your pain.
That’s good news.
The department and City Hall ought to be responding to the public’s displeasure, given the surge of reported crimes in New Orleans and a depleted police force logging fewer arrests in the first half of 2014 than in preceding six-month periods.
That summary of a new report from the Metropolitan Crime Commission isn’t necessarily a slam on the NOPD or, for that matter, the City Council or administration of Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
That is because there is a lot of good news, including the mayor’s much-touted decline in murders in the city.
Maybe it’s not a comparable, but if the strategies employed against murders and gang and drug violence that so often spurs them can be applied to other crimes, then the city is on a more positive path toward curbing the crime wave that people are upset about.
Arrests for traffic violations are way down, MCC noted, as the department, with fewer officers, focused on the violent crime rate.
The result was an 11 percent uptick in arrests for violent felony offenses in the first half of 2014, while arrests for felony weapons, drug and property crimes all declined from the prior six months, the report said. Felony drug arrests took the biggest tumble, a nearly 20 percent decline.
Among the good news in the report is what the MCC’s Rafael Goyeneche described as the better working relationship with NOPD and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office, which is getting convictions — one of the real problems with the old NOPD, where the system routinely broke down in getting arrests, evidence and witnesses and then trials in a timely fashion.
Yet the good news in the report can’t obscure the crime wave that is happening and that the city ought to be concerned about.
We support two initiatives for building the manpower of the NOPD pushed by Landrieu and new Police Superintendent Michael Harrison.
We hope that the federal court overseeing a consent decree will loosen restrictions on how many recruits can be trained.
Another good idea is Harrison’s suggestion to relax the existing rule of 60 hours of criminal justice courses required of recruit applicants. A high school graduate may be a promising recruit but not meet the two other hurdles, the 60 hours of courses or prior military service.
The chief isn’t suggesting taking anybody off the street. Those with prior training, at SUNO or Delgado or another institution, still would be high on the lists.
But we hope and expect that a bit of flexibility in choosing recruits is worthwhile.
Boots on the ground are needed, and the sting felt at City Hall by public displeasure can be only a helpful spur to activity.