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Promotin’ the General Welfare

Time to Handle This 'Crime Thing'

New Orleans has a crime problem. New Orleans has a problem dealing with crime. New Orleans is in denial about its crime problem. New Orleans has long been in denial about its crime problem. If New Orleans was serious about solving its crime problem, it would have addressed the systemic issues which contribute to the persistent crime problem long ago.


Sure, the crime totals have varied over the years, the per capita stats have fluctuated, but let’s face it: since violent crime became a “thing” in the “old” New Orleans in the 80’s, the city has failed to take the problem seriously enough to matter.


And this is nothing new. From the look of things, not much will change any time soon.  


Why? Because New Orleans does not deal in truth when it comes to its “crime thing.”


New Orleans is a gambler. Long before gambling was legalized, New Orleans gambled away the futures of so many on the streets. It’s crazy that folks made it this long living here. And the things other people say about people who live in New Orleans? The things people say about how they’d never live in New Orleans? Can you blame them for not wanting to live here?


But where, you might ask, is there when you say here?


First, let’s be clear: as it pertains to New Orleans’ violent crime problem, such crimes were contained to certain areas. Not here, but there or over there or somewhere else. On rare occasions, horrific crimes happened where they weren’t "supposed to" happen, but for the most part, heinous criminal actions — you know the kind of stuff common to “other areas” — stayed in there and didn’t occur here


And as long as the police did their job keeping the crime in those areas, the crime problem wasn’t a “thing.” You might have a crime wave — but you didn’t have a crime problem.


Then a funny thing happened along the way to now — and not funny “ha ha” and not just overnight, as in after-Katrina. Over the years, little by little, those crimes began breaching the unofficial boundaries, finding their way into other areas, places where those crimes didn’t occur.  


Eventually, thanks to Hurricane Katrina and the way in which certain returning populations were “managed," the “criminal element” was dispersed willy-nilly, to some extent, and violent crime is spreading virally.  

Now, crime is out of control. Thanks to underemployment, a lack of viable jobs paying an affordable living wage, and poor or failing preparation of students in the schools — rates of violence and crime are rising even more. 


So, yes, New Orleans: it’s here, it’s back, it never went away, that crime thing, and it’s not stopping any time soon from the look of things — unless it’s making a stop at a car door or carport near you.  


And that cliché phrase, “It’s gonna get worse before it gets better” may need an update. “It’s gonna keep getting worse with no end in sight” may be the new normal if all these brazen, unspeakable crimes are evidence.  


And we can discuss all sorts of factors and issues, and talk about Red v. Blue values and solutions, church morals and the Ten Commandments, and what is clear is that none of all of this is making any sense to the “criminal element” committing these crimes. The message is not getting through.


Not from the mayor. Not from the police chief. Not from concerned citizens. Not from anyone speaking common sense.


We can blame it on a desensitized citizenry. We can point fingers at reality TV, social media, violent video games. We can call criminals bad names. We can describe the problem with handy euphemisms. We can aggregate and analyze the data, then cite statistics. We can issue policy statements and publish white papers. We can call on politicians, preachers, and pundits for vision.


And it’s a pretty good bet violent crime will continue to rise in New Orleans. More blood will be spilled. More lives will be taken. More bodies will be damaged. More spirits will be broken. And the crimes will continue because New Orleans does not deal in truth when it comes to its crime problem.


New Orleans does not want to deal in truth when it comes to remedying the issues plaguing students in schools, many of whom emerge from school ill-prepared and unprepared to join civil society and the workforce.


We can blame Common Core. We can blame the lack of a moral core and no prayer in schools. We can blame Baton Rouge. We can blame City Hall. But until New Orleans decides to deal in truth, the crime problem will continue: it may worsen, it may level off somewhat, but it will not go away.


And until New Orleans gets real about how to deal with its crime problem at all levels in all manners, crime in New Orleans will remain a real threat to our well-being and that of those who come into the city.


Drew Brees can lead us to another Super Bowl, but Breesus cannot make the crimes go away. Anthony Davis can take us to the Promised Land, but The Brow cannot furrow enough to dispel the crimes. Folks can keep planning festivals, frolic, and fun, but the greatest sin the original Sin City will have to answer for will be that it never truly dealt with its crime problem.


We can continue to pretend we’re doing all we can to stem the rising tide of crimes, but until we get really real and ready to deal with the problem with honesty and earnestness, with heads and hearts and minds and souls committed to making a difference – until we believe in the we part of the equation and not the they part of the problem – New Orleans will not solve its crime problem.


And this is no way to live, New Orleans.  This is no way to live.


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The text above is a column and expresses only the opinion of the author, not NOLA Defender or NOLA Defender’s Editorial Board.

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