August 17 Update
Date: Tue, Aug. 19, 2008
Although summer months are notorious for an increase in violent crime,
this knowledge does little to quell the sense of chaos and fear that
has gripped the city in the past week. We've heard from many people
in response to the horrific murder of Jessica Hawk in her Chartres
Street shotgun. But Jessica was just one of at least eleven murders
over the course of the week, and the violence doesn't stop there. On
Thursday, a woman led police on a high-speed chase going the wrong way
on Airline Highway—and she had a young child in the car with her.
Also, several hit and runs have been reported, including one fatality.
In a second case, the victim was seriously injured and the car
involved has been located but the police have yet to respond, saying
that they cannot take action due to the vehicle's out-of-state plates.
In the lower 9th Ward, callers reporting drug activity have been
directed by NOPD dispatchers to call Crimestoppers instead.
Meanwhile, Judge Raymond Bigelow dismissed the emotional and important
Danziger Bridge case due to procedural violations that took place
during for DA Eddie Jordan's administration. Both Keva
Landrum-Johnson and Judge Bigelow asked the federal government to
examine the case and consider stepping in. Clearly, the city has a
long way to go in cleaning up this broken system.
But not all the news is bad. Earlier this week, Orleans Parish
prosecutors succeeded in a conviction in the case of Clarence Johnson,
the teenager who, early in 2007, shot and killed another young man,
Robert Dawson, who had bested him in a fistfight. In a case that
scandalized the city and woke many to the role parental guidance—or
the lack thereof—plays in the fates of our young people, Clarence's
mother handed him a gun and told him to "go get" Robert Dawson.
Clarence's mother is still awaiting trial for her part in the murder.
And until recently, a summer that many had predicted would be one of
New Orleans's bloodiest has been relatively quiet. To turn these
quiet spells into sustained peace on our streets, we continue to call
for greater respect and communication from most of our local police
officers; for a return to officer visibility, walking the beat, and
other community-based policing measures; and for a return to vocal
citizen engagement in community and city-wide public safety issues.
As citizens of New Orleans, we are reminded every day of the
importance of leaders in building a healthy, strong community.
Increasingly, that leadership comes from and is directed by everyday
people, rather than the elected officials whose duty it is to carry
out the job. Just one example is the work that our friend--and
SilenceIsViolence board member--Karen Gadbois has done uncovering the
NOAH scandal. And at the other end of the spectrum, we cannot help
but join those of you who have written us in bewilderment and outrage
at the plans to honor the mayor on Friday, August 22 with an award for
"Excellence in Recovery." We have made no secret of our
disappointment with the mayor's record-breaking silence in the matter
of violent crime in our city, and frankly, the mayor has made no
secret of his disrespect of all of us. The awards dinner is scheduled
to take place in a private penthouse at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on
Canal between Burgundy and Dauphine, Friday evening at 7pm. We
anticipate that many New Orleanians will be heading there around 6pm
to make their opinions of this event heard.
Finally, as the DA election approaches, we hope that everyone will a
close look at the candidates and the attributes needed in this
position. One opportunity to learn about the candidates first-hand
will take place next Wednesday, August 20 when a collection of
downtown neighborhood organizations will host a forum for candidates
beginning at 6pm at the Royal Orleans Hotel in the French Quarter.
For more information, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.