Over the past 10 days while engaged in seemingly mundane matters in opposite sides of Orleans Parish, I witnessed two crimes.
The first involved a group of teens in hoodies driving up midday at an Uptown gas station, slinking up to the opposite side of a car where an oblivious woman was pumping gas and then snatching her purse from inside her car.
Next, while sitting with my son having a sno-ball in the Esplanade Avenue corridor, I noticed a pedestrian frantically waving down a police car. Moments later a new Camaro came barreling down the street in front of my son and me, blowing its horn for other cars to get out of its way. The car then quickly parked 100 feet from where we sat, as a teen in a hoodie bailed out and fled.
I quickly gathered my most prized possession — my child. Fortunately, we were able to guide the police to where the car had been ditched, only to then learn the situation at hand had been a carjacking.
I do not recount these stories to regale your readership with tales of the city. Rather, I do so to assert that New Orleans is quite simply a lawless town. And, I say all these things as a middle-aged Black man and registered Democrat.
What is the reason for this malaise? Quite simply, it is the result of whom we elect and the policies and culture they have brought about in this municipality. Not one elected leader has stood up to address this most recent crime wave. Perhaps, it is so because none have experience dealing with crime, or because they have built their life’s work as apologists for criminals, or have built a body of excusatory legislation that has brought us to this morass and as such are now hiding from their records.
Leaders, past and present, rather seek solace in defeatist language such as “It’s just a culture of violence,” oblivious to the reality of their policies as the problem.
At present, the elected leaders in this city are punching above their weight (or not at all) and missing … ingloriously. For the same reason that you don’t go to a dry cleaner for a dental need, you similarly don’t go to a career politician with no record of combating crime to fix your problem. Yet, we continue to place our hope in leaders of no gravitas with crime. Where is the plan?
New Orleans suffers at present from systemic failures: to police nuisance crimes, to enforce laws, to utilize the crime-fighting technology it has (or is capable of procuring), to hold aberrant criminals accountable, or to develop a strategic vision on normative-based crime reduction. These failures have brought us to an environment where we rush inside our homes at 5 p.m. That’s not living, it’s surviving.
Moreover, increasingly progressive chief executives have set police hiring freezes, sued our fire department (twice) and furloughed first-responders in a pandemic, no less. Albeit significant milestones of reform have been met, we suffer under the weight of a now-anachronistic federal consent decree that hampers police from policing. That’s why NOPD retention is in the tank.
This election cycle, crime is the No. 1 issue in New Orleans. Yet, there is no plan. Where are the moderate politicians in this city, who can find the golden mean between defunding the police on one hand and sending in the shock troops on the other? Residents will continue to “vote with their feet” and depart in droves, as is the case presently, due to the shameful lack of public safety.
New Orleans needs to elect better, if it doesn’t want to become New York of the 1970s — with unbridled violent crime, muggings, collapsed buildings, abandoned dwelling fires, rampant graffiti, open prostitution; the latter is advanced by yet another “woke” NOLA politician.
When politicians come to your homes and places of worship this fall currying favor for your vote, ask them pointedly what their enforcement-based plan is to make our city safe for our children, business and tourism. In the final analysis and based on how we vote, New Orleans will get the government it deserves.
Lt. Col. Brandon Gregoire, USMC retired, is an adjunct lecturer at Tulane University and a member of the Gentilly Terrace and Gardens Executive Board.