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Cops and crimefighters team for Neighborhood Watch training

  Leading members of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration, including Criminal Justice Commissioner James Carter and New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Superintendent Ronal Serpas, appeared at Gallier Hall Oct. 6 for New Orleans' first citywide neighborhood watch training session. Landrieu is pushing for an expansion of neighborhood watch groups as part of his "Saving Our Sons" anti-crime campaign, and the training was timely, as New Orleans' "Night Out Against Crime" is Oct. 11.

  The campaign is the mayor's response to what Carter called an "alarming murder rate that's happening in our community, particularly with African-American males." As of press time, the city had seen nearly 150 murders this year, which is on pace with last year, when New Orleans had the highest murder rate in the country. Murders remain a problem even as other, less serious crimes, have seen significant declines in recent years.

  "When you take murder out of the equation, New Orleans is an incredibly low crime city," compared to other cities of its size, Serpas said. "But that murder rate affects all of us."

  NOPD officer John Dobard led the training session, offering a series of tips that ranged from the obvious — don't leave your keys in your car when you go to pay for gas — to the somewhat more esoteric — the proper way to hold a purse is to cradle it close to your chest in front. "[A woman] has to protect that purse the way Drew Brees has to protect that football," Dobard said.

  Sgt. Michael LeVasseur explained how to become an official neighborhood watch group. Leaders of a proposed neighborhood watch group must attend a series of crime prevention strategy meetings with NOPD officers before receiving two of the program's signs with the iconic, skulking "Boris the Burglar" character.

  National Night Out Against Crime was Aug. 2, but in July local law enforcement agencies agreed to move it to the fall in hopes of cooler weather. Interested residents can visit www.nola.gov/sosnola to request more information on starting a neighborhood watch group. — CHARLES MALDONADO

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