Even as we approach the peak of hurricane season, there’s no greater concern among many New Orleans residents than the rise in violent crime. That much was clear from a series of first-person accounts published recently by The Times-Picayune, which featured New Orleanians describing how they’ve been affected by the crisis in ways large and small.
“Our morale has taken a hit,” one of our guest writers, Torin Sanders, accurately diagnosed.
So we were glad to see the New Orleans City Council revisit and ultimately reverse its opposition to using facial recognition technology as an investigative tool last week.
At the urging of Mayor LaToya Cantrell and a broad new coalition of civic, business and nonprofit leaders, the council voted 4-2 for Council member Eugene Green’s ordinance to roll back, partially, a previous ban on various surveillance methods, including facial recognition.
In backing its use, we don’t discount critics’ concerns over privacy and accuracy, particularly when it comes to possible misidentification of Black people. But we believe that safeguards, developed in concert with a U.S. Justice Department that still has the New Orleans Police Department under a civil rights consent decree, can prevent misuse or abuse. As for concerns that the technology is not proven to reduce crime, we’d argue that anything that might help — particularly given the NOPD’s well-documented officer shortages — is worth trying.
The sad reality is that New Orleans is reeling from near-daily reports of terrifying incidents and from one of the highest murder rates in the nation.
Now is the time to try anything and everything, within reason, that could turn the tide.