Lower 9th Ward residents say blighted lots haven for crime

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 17, 2013 at 10:18 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 17 at 10:21 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- The Orleans Parish Coroner's Office will conduct an autopsy Friday to identify a murder victim. Her body was dumped in the Lower 9th Ward.

It's the second such case this year. Frustrated residents living in the area say abandoned and overgrown lots continue to be a haven for crime.

"Saw all the police and the ambulance. They blocked the streets and I couldn't go out," said a woman with family living in the Lower 9th Ward not far from where a body was found.

At first a neighbor thought the smell was coming from a dead animal, but when homicide detectives arrived the block quickly turned into a crime scene.

The discovery of a decomposing Jane Doe's body on Thursday near Chocktaw Street and Florida Avenue is unnerving to a New Orleans woman. Worried about her family's safety, she asked Eyewitness News to protect her identity.

"Someone is bringing bodies into our area and dumping them because of the high grass," she said.

Neighbors say towering weeds, poor lighting and sometimes impassable roads is why the Lower 9th Ward has turned into the perfect dumping ground for someone who doesn't want to get caught.

Eyewitness News archives show that in February grass cutting crews found the body of a man shot to death in a vacant lot near North Miro and Benton streets. In August 2011, someone's remains were uncovered in a burning car near the intersection of Law and Flood streets.

"We're really concerned as a group about who's coming in and who's coming out," said the woman.

Despite repeated calls to city agencies to clean up overgrown lots and pave the road, she said nothing is being done to correct a problem that's been around since Katrina.

"I realize people have been suffering for eight years and that's a terribly long period of time. I can't even explain that delay but what I can say is we're working real hard on it right now and we think some progress is coming," said New Orleans City Councilman James Gray.

Gray said volunteers continue to clear blighted lots, and capital improvement projects are in the works in the Lower 9th Ward to bring more residents to the area.

However, he does confirm a major challenge is many of the overgrown lots belong to private property owners.

"The system we have is designed to work where people want to keep their property. But when a person is prepared to say, 'I don't care. I give up,' our system was not designed for that," said Gray.

City-owned or privately-owned, residents living here say they're tired of what continues to be a public safety concern.

"Something needs to be done as soon as possible," the woman said.

The NOPD is asking the public's help in identifying the unidentified decomposed female body found on Thursday.

Police released this description: a white woman wearing a light colored tank top, blue jeans and her toes were painted with silver nail polish.

If you can help identify her, call Crimestoppers at 822-1111.

A spokesman for the Landrieu administration issued this statement regarding the blighted lots in the Lower 9th Ward:

"The city aggressively pursues property owners who are not compliant with minimum property standards, including high grass. Overgrown lots are a serious problem the city faces in its ongoing fight against blight and negatively impact the quality of life for our citizens. We urge residents to call NOLA 311 to report blighted properties in their neighborhoods."

The city says it also works with NOPD Quality of Life Officers on a daily basis to address reported issues and will kickstart a second phase of a lot clearing program knows as the Collaborative Nuisance Abatement Program (CNAP).

 

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