Crime

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Morrell's bill to eliminate Louisiana's death penalty passes Senate judiciary committee

Posted By and on Tue, Apr 10, 2018 at 5:56 PM

State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, supported a bill Tuesday to ban the deal penalty in Louisiana. - SARAH GAMARD/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • SARAH GAMARD/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, supported a bill Tuesday to ban the deal penalty in Louisiana.

A Senate judiciary committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would eliminate the death penalty in Louisiana effective August 1. Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, authored the bill, reasoning that the death penalty is an outdated and costly means of punishment.

"The death penalty is an archaic holdover from a time where we were not as civilized as we are today," Morrell said.

Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, provided the only vocal opposition. He argued that abolishing the death penalty would have no effect on the state’s high rate of violent crime.

Morrell responded that “we have had the death penalty on the books since the founding of our state, and it has not deterred violent crime.

“Increasingly, we are finding individuals that commit these violent crimes are mentally unbalanced,” Morrell said. “Many of them are tortured, damaged people who do horrific things because they don’t value human life.”

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ABCs and AR-15s: State Senate approves bill to allow Louisiana students to wear bulletproof backpacks to school

Posted By on Tue, Apr 10, 2018 at 3:43 PM

State Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, presented a bill to the Senate that would allow Louisiana students to wear bulletproof backpacks. - PHOTO BY DREW WHITE/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • PHOTO BY DREW WHITE/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • State Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, presented a bill to the Senate that would allow Louisiana students to wear bulletproof backpacks.

In the latest effort to fortify schools, Louisiana children may be able to start wearing bulletproof backpacks to class.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Monday that would let students wear body armor on school grounds or buses. The bill, which passed 34-2, now heads to the House.

Current Louisiana law prohibits body armor on school property.

“Members, we’ve seen the headlines,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, said. “Currently there is nothing that a parent can do that says to a child that you are protected.”

Two members — Sen. J.P. Morrell and Sen. Karen Peterson, both New Orleans Democrats  — voted against the bill.

“A Kevlar backpack is not a Captain America shield,” Morrell said. “You are not going to run out there blocking bullets with a good outcome.”

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Chickening out on criminal justice reform

Posted By on Sun, Apr 8, 2018 at 11:48 AM

CREATIVE COMMONS/NEIL CONWAY
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/NEIL CONWAY

Criminal justice reform was among the few bright spots in last year’s dispiriting legislative session. Lawmakers adopted far-reaching laws that traded “tough on crime” grandstanding for “smart on crime” policies that have been proven to work.

The Justice Reinvestment Task Force, a nonpartisan coalition of conservatives, liberals, clergy, judges, law enforcement, business people and civic leaders, spent a year developing legislation that streamlined Louisiana’s hodgepodge sentencing laws. The reforms were enacted with broad bipartisan support.

Many leading Republicans supported — and still support — criminal justice reform. A handful of ambitious demagogues are now attacking it with lies and scare tactics, not because they care about public safety (the reforms actually promote public safety) but because they hope to grab cheap headlines and run for another office. U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy, who can’t seem to stop running for something, is the most glaring (and shameless) example.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Louisiana Senate committee backs proposal to raise age for assault weapon purchases

Posted By on Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 1:40 PM

Students participating in the New Orleans March for Our Lives on March 24. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Students participating in the New Orleans March for Our Lives on March 24.

A bill to raise the age for purchasing assault weapons in Louisiana narrowly passed a state Senate committee April 3, after debate among legislators, gun rights advocates, teachers, students and law enforcement officials including New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Michael Harrison. It now heads to the full state Senate.

House Bill 274 would prevent people from under age 21 from purchasing so-called assault weapons, including guns with high-capacity magazines. It also would raise the penalties for unlawful sale to minors from $300 to $1,000.

Harrison argued the bill — introduced by state Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans — could decrease the number of so-called assault weapons used to commit mass shootings. Among the hundreds of murders and shootings in New Orleans since his became chief, Harrison said there hasn't been a single instance of someone using an assault weapon to defend themselves — but "a large percentage" of those shootings were committed by a person firing an assault weapon.

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Monday, April 2, 2018

Louisiana House unanimously supports making hazing a felony

Posted By on Mon, Apr 2, 2018 at 8:11 PM

Stephen and Rae Ann Gruver, left, whose son died last fall from hazing, were in the House as it voted Monday on a bill by Rep. Nancy Landry, right, to make hazing a felony. - PHOTO BY ASHLEY WOLF
  • PHOTO BY ASHLEY WOLF
  • Stephen and Rae Ann Gruver, left, whose son died last fall from hazing, were in the House as it voted Monday on a bill by Rep. Nancy Landry, right, to make hazing a felony.

Louisiana House lawmakers on April 2 unanimously supported a bill that would make hazing a felony.

The “Max Gruver Act,” named after the 18-year-old LSU fraternity pledge who died from alcohol consumption at a fraternity event last fall, would upgrade hazing from a misdemeanor to try to stop the worst abuses.

“This bill will deter, punish, and raise awareness, and that’s what we have criminal statutes for,” bill sponsor Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, said.

The anti-hazing bill passed with a House vote of 87-0. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

New Orleans City Council to withdraw surveillance camera ordinance

Posted By on Tue, Mar 20, 2018 at 5:38 PM

Opponents of a proposed expansion of surveillance cameras hit camera-shaped pinatas outside City Hall in February. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Opponents of a proposed expansion of surveillance cameras hit camera-shaped pinatas outside City Hall in February.

After months of debate over a requirement for businesses that sell alcohol to install a surveillance camera that streams into a law enforcement monitoring center, the New Orleans City Council is expected to drop the proposal at its March 22 meeting. Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration has requested that the City Council withdraw the ordinance.

The 22-page ordinance came at the request of the Landrieu administration, which proposed a series of changes to how businesses apply for liquor licenses. A few sentences within that proposed ordinance were requirements for alcohol beverage outlets (ABOs) to install a street-facing camera to pipe into a recently opened Real Time Crime Monitoring Center, under the watch of the city's office of Homeland Security and shared with the New Orleans Police Department, FBI and other "law enforcement partners."

"The Landrieu Administration has moved aggressively to tackle violent crime in our neighborhoods," Landrieu's Press Secretary Craig Belden said in a statement to Gambit. "A key part of this effort has been providing the tools and resources law enforcement needs to be more effective. In the last year alone, we have invested in new crime cameras and license plate readers that are already helping the NOPD prevent and solve crimes. The proposed ordinance that expands the number of cameras outside of ABO’s will require more discussion and careful consideration by the next Council and Administration. Therefore, we have requested the Council withdraw this item."

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

New Orleans students join massive nationwide walkout against gun violence

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 6:45 PM

Lusher and Sci High students linked arms March 14 as part of a nationwide walkout against gun violence. - PHOTO BY ROBERT MORRIS/UPTOWN MESSENGER
  • PHOTO BY ROBERT MORRIS/UPTOWN MESSENGER
  • Lusher and Sci High students linked arms March 14 as part of a nationwide walkout against gun violence.

Elementary and middle school students from Morris Jeff Community School spilled out onto green space outside the building at 10 a.m. March 14, joining a nationwide student walkout protesting gun violence in the wake of the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Hundreds of students joined the walkout in New Orleans, from The Net and Benjamin Franklin in Gentilly and George Washington Carver Collegiate Academy in Desire to Lusher Charter School and its neighboring New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School in Uptown.

Students from Lusher and Sci High linked arms around the block and held signs demanding congressional action on gun control, or wore the names of victims of school shootings. The national Gun Violence Archive counts 239 school shootings since the murders of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. There have been more than 400 victims of school shootings since then — 138 people were killed.

Under a banner of “Enough,” thousands of students around the U.S. held a 17-minute-long walkout, each minute representing a person killed in Parkland. Loosely organized under the umbrella of the Women’s March Youth Empower coalition, each walkout was led and coordinated by students at each school, a display of the growing collective power among young people mobilizing to have their voices’ heard.

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

New Orleans students organizing March for Our Lives for gun control

Posted By on Sat, Mar 10, 2018 at 11:30 AM

Students organizing in Minnesota in February. Student-led March for Our Lives events are planned nationwide this month. - PHOTO BY FIBONACCI BLUE/CREATIVE COMMONS
  • PHOTO BY FIBONACCI BLUE/CREATIVE COMMONS
  • Students organizing in Minnesota in February. Student-led March for Our Lives events are planned nationwide this month.

In the wake of the killings of 17 people — mostly students — at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, thousands of students around the U.S. have galvanized against gun lobbyists, manufacturers and the elected officials to which they've donated millions of dollars.

That mass student-level organizing has been amplified by social media, acting not only as a living document of the violence committed in schools but a platform on which conservative thinktanks and politicians are routinely ratioed to death by teenagers who aren’t at all interested in thoughts and prayers followed by inaction.

“It was inspiring seeing students who are passionate this stand up and saying, ‘OK, that’s it. That’s enough,’” says Benjamin Franklin High School student Olivia Keefe says. “As someone who can’t vote, you feel like there’s nothing you can do.”

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

With a smashed camera-shaped piñata, New Orleans immigrants and allies call on City Council to vote against surveillance ordinance

Posted By on Sat, Feb 24, 2018 at 12:25 AM

Congress of Day Laborers and allies stood outside City Hall and smashed a camera-shaped pinata to protest a proposed surveillance network.
  • Congress of Day Laborers and allies stood outside City Hall and smashed a camera-shaped pinata to protest a proposed surveillance network.

A few steps away from the doors of New Orleans City Hall Feb. 24, children swatted at a large colorful pinata in the shape of a security camera, standing in for the proposed massive surveillance network that would give the city access to a live camera feed in the front of every business that sells alcohol. Surrounded by painted cardboard cameras mocking the newly installed cameras with red-and-blue flashing lights, the crowd took turns chanting "no mas cameras!"

Congress of Day Laborers with the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice fears that the camera network would criminalize immigrant communities put under a constant microscope if that data — streamed into the city's Real Time Crime Monitoring Center — is shared with federal immigration enforcement.

"What we need is to invest in jobs, education and our streets," said Congress of Day Laborers organizer Chloe Sigal. "We don’t need to be pouring more resources into criminalization in our communities."

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

New York Times on New Orleans' proposed surveillance plan

Posted By on Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 3:55 PM

The city's Real Time Crime Monitoring Center oversees a citywide crime camera network. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • The city's Real Time Crime Monitoring Center oversees a citywide crime camera network.

The New York Times
took a look today at New Orleans City Hall's plan to install 1,500 surveillance cameras around town — acknowledging "typically vexing civil liberties issues" but seemingly more concerned that round-the-clock police surveillance of the streets will quash people's abilities to attend "boy-lesque" shows, carry potbellied pigs around town and "somehow suck the soul out of the place, quashing the promise of the Mardi Gras anthem 'Do Whatcha Wanna,' which serves as a siren song for tourists and a kind of mission statement for many residents":
Last fall, the city opened a Real Time Crime Monitoring Center, with a huge wall of screens showing video feeds of street scenes, in a building at the edge of the French Quarter.

A block away at the Black Penny, a tiny bar on North Rampart Street, grousing over the cameras was easy to find. “It’s going to be very clinical — it’s going to take the mystique, the romanticism out of the city,” said Alyx Gauthier, 27, a local service-industry worker who was nursing a pint on a recent afternoon. “This city was built by pirates and whores,” she said.
The Times also stopped at Oz, Cafe Lafitte in Exile and the Upper Ninth Ward to gauge the pulse of the populace. Give it a read.

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