NEW ORLEANS - Seven-month-old Deshawn Kinard and one-year-old Londyn Samuels were among the youngest murder victims in New Orleans this year. With a few hours left in 2013, the murder count in New Orleans stood at 155. The last time the city saw close to that number of homicides in one year (with the exception of 2005 and Katrina) was in 1999.
Back then, the city's population was larger, by roughly 100,000 people. SUNO criminologist Dr. John Penny says despite the good work of police to curb murders, the city can't shake the stigma of violence.
"When you look around there's still a great amount of skepticism and fear, which is somewhat of a lethal combination for our city," said Penny.
Some of that skepticism could be found in Al Mims, a community activist in Central City which sees its fair share of homicides. Mims says any drop in the murder rate is welcomed but the numbers don't tell the story. He says other crimes like armed robberies, theft and assault also contribute to the overall feeling of safety or lack thereof. Mims says the New Orleans is a place where crime has hardened its residents.
"We don't excited until a child dies, then we put that child in the grave. I've been to the funerals, people forget about it until the next time it happens," said Mims.
Last year 198 people were murdered in New Orleans. That statistic was cited by Mayor Mitch Landrieu when he and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter addressed the National Press Club in September. The joint speech was titled “A National Call for Action to End the Violence Crisis in US Cities.” During that speech, Mayor Landrieu emphasized the need for community involvement. It's been echoed by members of the NOPD, a department struggling to recruit and retain officers. City and community leaders agree that boosting the ranks of the police force will help the city maintain a sense of safety. But people like Al Mims say the number of cops on the street alone will not stop bloodshed in the future. He says something less visible needs to take place within households.
"We need to teach our children not just about reading, writing and arithmetic but character and the people they shouldn't be around," said Mims.
A lesson children like Deshawn Kinard and Londyn Samuels will never get the chance to learn.