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Mayor LaToya Cantrell listens to New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Shaun Ferguson during a press conference about the plan to reduce crime, at City Hall June 29.

Do you feel safe in New Orleans?

That is the most critical question for residents before qualifying opens for the mayor and City Council races, July 14-16.

Some have already considered the question and had the financial ability to move out. Many left after lifetimes in the city. Low-income families are not as mobile: what a dangerous trend for the city’s future.

The most important job for mayors and councils is protecting their constituents. Residents should feel safe at home, on their way to work, running errands, and taking kids to school.

Below is a representative sample of interviews with 800 adults 18 years old and older in New Orleans. Interviews were conducted by live, professionally trained telephone interviewers June 11-17, directed by Ronald Faucheux of Faucheux Strategies in New Orleans and Washington, DC.

Margin of error is +/- 3%. Racial composition of the sample was 59% African American, 35% White, 6% other.

When asked, “Generally speaking, how safe do you think the City of New Orleans is — very safe, fairly safe, not that safe or not safe at all?” Only 2% said “very safe.” Another 33% answered “fairly safe,” for a total safe of 35%.

Respondents answering “not that safe” were 38%; those “not safe at all” 26%, for a total “not safe” of 64%. Only 1% said, “don’t know.”

The most significant shift since Faucheux did a similar 2020 survey is the dramatic drop in perception that New Orleans is safe. In the 2020 survey, 57% of residents said the city was safe. In the 2021 survey, only 35% say the same. That’s a 22-point drop.

Those saying the city is “very safe” dropped from 7% to 2%; “fairly safe” dropped 50% to 33%; “not that safe” increased 28% to 38%; and “not safe at all” doubled 13% to 26%.

If I were a public school teacher again, I’d flunk the mayor and council on this test. Especially considering President Joe Biden gave the city an extra $388 million in pandemic aid, after its citizens supported him with 88% of their votes.

Remember, Mayor LaToya Cantrell convened the stimulus task force a month ago on how to spend that extra money. She instructed them to focus on five key areas, and none of it was fighting crime. Cantrell will say whatever her political consultants tell her to, but once she’s in her final term, you can bet she’ll do whatever she wants.

It seems like the local political numbskulls don’t know what their constituents are afraid of; otherwise, they’d have provided specifics on how they’ll spend Biden’s gift.

NOPD is down about 500 cops, almost one-third of where staffing should be, and NOFD is down 100 firefighters. But within hours after the release of this crime perception poll, Cantrell called a news conference to highlight $40 million of programs she’s created instead of hiring more cops.

Cantrell hasn’t increased NOPD’s budget since 2018. This year Cantrell proposed a cut of $16 million or 8%, and the City Council voted for it. They didn’t say “Defund the Police,” they just did it.

Hey, Mayor Cantrell, the residents don’t need your phony programs, which haven’t worked. Residents need more police on the job.

Since the 2020 survey, the perception that the city is safe has declined by 22 points citywide; 23 points among Blacks; 20 points among Whites; not a pretty picture in any neighborhood.

Finally, when asked, “Over the last year, would you say the crime problem in New Orleans has gotten worse, gotten better, or is the same?”, 74% of respondents replied worse. Only 3% said better, and 21% thought it was the same.

All this data explains why residents say the city is not safe increased substantially, from 41% in 2020 to 64% in 2021, a dramatic 56% jump in the year going into elections.

If you are one of the 21% who thinks things are OK, vote for the incumbents.

The rest of you ought to be looking for alternatives or running for the jobs yourself.

Email Garey Forster at Garey.Forster@gmail.com.

Ron Faucheux: The public puts crime at the top of its list of election-year problems


Garey Forster is former chairman of the Labor and Industry Committee in the Louisiana House of Representatives and a former Louisiana Secretary of Labor. His column runs weekly. Email him at Garey.Forster@gmail.com.