All summer, 50 Louisiana State Police (LSP) troopers have patrolled the French Quarter to increase crime-fighting efforts in that neighborhood in response to Mayor Mitch Landrieu's request for state and federal assistance after a shooting on Bourbon Street in June left one woman dead and nine other people wounded. Those state patrols, however, will end after Labor Day weekend.
At a meeting Aug. 6 at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in the St. Roch neighborhood — the fourth in a series of community talks District C City Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey organized to address crime — someone asked why LSP weren't patrolling St. Roch or any other part of Orleans Parish.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro told a crowd of about 30 people that the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) was doing all it could. "We've had some violent attacks right outside the doors of this church," Cannizzaro said. "We pay taxes in the City of New Orleans, too. Aren't we entitled to that same protection from that same law enforcement agency that's working in the French Quarter?"
Of the 64 parishes in the state of Louisiana, 63 are patrolled by LSP, Cannizzaro said, while Orleans Parish is not.
The overwhelming question from the audience was what any of them could do about it. Cannizzaro urged community members to write to Gov. Bobby Jindal to demand additional protection, an answer that 24-year-old St. Roch resident Darrell Tobias didn't feel did the issue justice. "They're the elected officials, they have the influence and guidance," he told Gambit.
NOPD 5th District Commander Christopher Goodly said, as he has in other meetings, that the number of officers on his force has decreased from 112 in 2011 to 79 now. That decrease, Cannizzaro said, comes from the city not allocating the necessary funding to NOPD.
Bill Murphy, vice-president of the Faubourg St. Roch Improvement Association, was attacked and mugged last month during a spate of violence. Murphy told Gambit the most frustrating thing is a lack of community involvement in the efforsts of the neighborhood association.
"I'm still optimistic," Murphy told Gambit. "It's not just the meeting; the meeting is one thing. There's frustration because we need more neighborhood participation. ... A lot of people don't know these things exist."
Murphy said during the meeting that people in St. Roch are scared, even though the police have added an extra patrol in the neighborhood.
"I never had an illusion that it was all that safe," Murphy told Gambit. "I understand the dangers of the neighborhood. You try to avoid it. [My attackers] came around the corner ready to do something." As for the attacks, Murphy said, "The violence we see here is more the drug trade. And the drug dealers don't go around just beating people up. ... This is a loose cannon thing. It's random."
The neighborhood association will host its own crime meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 14 at the St. Roch Community Church.