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Authorities Gang Up on Violence
According to Mayor Landrieu and his team of law enforcement officials, New Orleans’ crime rate is largely the result of gang violence. Da’ Mayor and his NOLA For Life Campaign members gathered at City Hall today to send a strong message to those responsible for the persistent death toll: the city is pursuing violent offenders with renewed vigor and longer sentencing.
Unlike Ceasefire, an initiative which approaches crime from a public health perspective rather than by focusing solely on punitive measures, the Group Violence Reduction Strategy is geared towards aggressive enforcement and keeping criminals behind bars as long as possible.
The five pillars of the NOLA For Life component are listed as follows. “Stop the shootings, invest in prevention, promote jobs and opportunity, get involved and rebuild neighborhoods, and improve the NOPD.”
The strategy is a collaborative effort of the NOPD, the District Attorney’s Office, the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Louisiana State Police, the Parole Board, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the DEA, the U.S. Marshal’s Office, and the U.S. Probation and Parole Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Landrieu explained that the Group Violence Reduction Strategy was the brainchild of Professor David Kennedy, whom Landrieu referred to as a “renowned criminologist.” Major cities such as Boston, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia have implemented similar strategies and seen positive results, according to Mayor Mitch.
Da’ Mayor said that a relatively small number of people are responsible for virtually all of the violent crime in the city. “A small group of individuals in gangs, in loosely affiliated groups committing the shootings and the murders. We’ve identified 600 individuals, and we think they belong to loosely 39 different groups.”
Landrieu sent a clear signal to potential offenders, using some of Spike Lee’s lingo. “You have a choice. You can get in line, you can flip your script and turn your life around, or you can face the consequences.”
Chief Ronal Serpas hammered down the point. “I have complete confidence in the men and women of this police department to carry this ball over the line. We take this effort very serious,” Serpas said, before emphasizing that the goal of the initiative is “long investigations, and long prison sentences.”
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten warned violent offenders that his office and the Office of Leon Cannizzaro will approach criminals with harsher sentences and robust investigations.
“The bad guys out there need to understand that as aggressive and efficient as this system has been, it’s going to get better,” said Letten.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro echoed previous statements, adding that NOLA For Life’s approach to ending violence includes more collaborative efforts between agencies. “This sort of venture is different in that we’re involved with the law enforcement agencies at ground zero. We have some sort of input when they are making the case, when they are gathering the intelligence. We sort of have some input into the direction of the investigation, with an eye towards prosecution,” said the D.A. “Stop. We’re coming after you, and we’re going to put you away for as long as the law allows," he added.
State Police Spokesman Ronnie Jones lightened the mood with a quip about Kernel Edmondson’s longwinded tendencies. “The bad news is Colonel Edmondson because he’s in New Jersey with our troopers. The good news is we’ll get out earlier because he’s not here.”
One reporter asked Mayor Landrieu to elaborate on pillar number three, the “jobs and opportunities,” component of the murder reduction strategy.
Mayor Mitch responded, “That is another piece of this, and I have another group of individuals with expertise in training programs, people with expertise in education, expertise in jobs, expertise in re entry. These young individuals will have personal meetings with them, counseling sessions. They will be a priority for us as well.”
Jim Letten was excited to respond to another reporter’s inquiries concerning the methods his office would use to pursue longer sentences.
“In real time this evidence as it’s collected, whether its derived from electronic surveillance or digital surveillance, or the use of a subpoena to bring in witnesses,” Letten went on, “sometimes using a basic conspiracy charge not just to charge one or two people but to charge five, six, seven people in a single indictment to present to a single jury…so that the system can take out big groups at a time,” he explained.
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