If you’re watching the local news and lamenting the fact that New Orleans is dying right before our very eyes let me correct you. It’s not dying. It’s committing a form of slow, agonizing suicide.
Thirty years ago the New Orleans culture was vibrant, alive with a color and flavor that was unmatched anywhere in the United States. This place was distinctive in just about everything it did, everything that happened here. That flavor has now turned sour and the color faded to a shade of funereal gray.
People are murdered in New Orleans at an alarming rate and what’s even more alarming are these juicy statistics: Number of murders in 2006, 162. (bear in mind that New Orleans has about half of its former population right now.) Number of those solved, 68.7% of the subjects identified in these murders are dead themselves, victims of their own criminal folly. 4 others still remain at large. That means that out of 162 murders, 73 remain unsolved. 22 of the cases cleared by arrest in 2006 have yet to be charged by New Orleans District Attorney Eddie Jordan.
Hereâ€™s a real kick in the head: So far in 2007 there have been 20 murders. Of that twenty, only FIVE (5) have been solved, and three of those because the killers themselves were killed by others of their ilk â€“ no great loss there. Only two have been cleared by an arrest.
People, the life blood of the city, are leaving nearly as fast as they are coming back. The thugs are running rampant and there seems to be no end in sight? Why? What is going on that is causing this city to be lost to a culture of murder, drug dealing and theft? The police and the District Attorney are busily pointing fingers at each other, the D.A. saying that the police are doing questionable investigations that lack the sufficient nexus for a trial, and the police are saying that D.A. is quite simply falling down on the job.
Eddie Jordanâ€™s credibility is already in doubt, at least to anyone who is capable of independent thought. Immediately after he was elected he fired almost all of the white employees of the D.A.â€™s office and replaced them with black, inexperienced employees. A civil jury found that he was guilty of reverse discrimination and has ordered him to pay up big bucks to those dismissed employees.
The racial issue aside, I think that this sort of thing shows extraordinarily poor judgment on the part of a man who should certainly know better. His working relationship with the police has been further damaged by his zealous prosecution of seven officers involved in a questionable shooting during Katrina. A comment Iâ€™ve heard several times is that if he were as hot to prosecute the thugs as he is the police the city might just be a bit safer.
Add judges who set low bonds or release felony suspects on their own recognizance to the lack of successful prosecutions of suspects and you end up with one thing: a complete disdain, a total lack of fear and respect for a criminal justice system that can and will most likely do absolutely nothing to you for shooting someone. They call it a â€œsixty day homicideâ€ on the street in New Orleans. Get arrested, sit in jail for sixty days, and if the D.A.â€™s office hasnâ€™t charged you by then, you walk. Period.
Another factor is the prevailing culture of New Orleans, one that has by and large replaced the culture of old, of which Iâ€™ll cite an example. Yesterday a 17 year old named Clarence Johnson got into a fight with another 17 year old boy and lost. Clarence went home and told his mother, 44 year old Vanessa Johnson. Did she empathize with him or scold him as parents have for thousands of years? No.
She gave him a handgun and told him to get revenge. He did. He went out, found the other boy, and killed him. A fine example of humanity, donâ€™t you think? When police interviewed and subsequently arrested the mother (the boy is still at large as I write this), they found cocaine and a picture of the boy posing with money, drugs, and guns. It was hanging on her wall. Not exactly a Norman Rockwell picture, is it?
And there is one more factor to add to the suicide of New Orleans. The people are demanding that the police clear the streets of the thugs. They want the police to be more aggressive, do their jobs, make them safe. Hereâ€™s the Catch-22 for the police in all that: If theyâ€™re not aggressive enough theyâ€™re damned. BUTâ€¦â€¦let them become too aggressive and raise a hand to one of these street thugs, every group from the ACLU to the NAACP to Eddie Jordanâ€™s office is howling for their heads. Not only have the thugs lost their fear of prosecution, theyâ€™ve lost their healthy fear of the NOPD.
The end result is that people are tired of the crime, the murders, the thefts, of just not being safe in that city any more. Thanks to our so called leaders New Orleans is dying right before our eyes.
And unlike Nero, who supposedly watched while Rome burned, our leaders are watching while New Orleans slowly commits suicide.