The victims of yet another mass armed robbery in Uptown New Orleans were immediately affected by the crimes, but in an age of social media and surveillance cameras, a wave of outrage is being generated by the heists.
It was not just a holdup when three masked men with guns robbed patrons and the register at the Monkey Hill Bar on Magazine Street, after similar holdups in two popular restaurants. It’s not a sure thing that the robberies are connected, but it is a certainty that if authorities don’t respond effectively, thousands of viewers of these alarming videos will see the city as overwhelmed by crime.
Federal authorities are working with Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the New Orleans Police Department on the issue. The U.S. attorney offered prosecution if there is a conspiracy connection in the cases.
What we worry about is not just one gang — if it is one gang — or even the possibility of copycat robberies. We worry about the image of the city that can damage the tourism industry and erode the dramatic gains made in New Orleans’ recovery from Hurricane Katrina in the past 10 years.
With all due respect for Landrieu’s statistics that crime is down overall, the public — not only today’s victims but the thousands of viewers of those videos — is right to be outraged that these kinds of attacks occur.
We want to see more police officers more productively employed, and it’s not clear the city will meet its goals of expansion of NOPD. The mayor and City Council have raised police pay but officers can be poached away by other agencies. The moves by Superintendent Michael Harrison to shift uniformed staff from offices to patrols are great steps. Louisiana State Police has been contributing more boots on the ground, too, even if higher LSP pay might lure some officers away from the city into the trooper ranks.
At the bar, owners praised a fast police response. Landrieu voiced the anger of citizens at the new crimes and noted that several suspects in other robberies have been caught recently. Is that enough?
The entire state of Louisiana has an economic interest in a productive New Orleans tourism industry. Louisiana’s queen city is an economic driver in other ways. And everyone who has a business knows that perception can have a real negative impact.
Public outrage ought to keep the heat on to resolve this issue that hurts our people far beyond the crime scenes themselves.