New Orleans spike in crime comes as city prepares for Mardi Gras

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by Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on January 25, 2012 at 7:09 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 25 at 7:22 PM

NEW ORLEANS-- As the city gets ready to greet nearly a million visitors between now and Fat Tuesday, headlines about the city's murder rate are appearing in papers around the country.

In December, a headline in the New York Times read "New Orleans struggles to stem homicides," and just a few days ago in the Chicago Tribune, an article's headline proclaimed "Rising murder rate may spoil Mardi Gras party."

"As the ambassador for the City of New Orleans, I'm very aware that I'm walking a tightrope, there's no question about it, but you can't shy away from it," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said during a news conference on Wednesday.

Landrieu acknowledge the headlines, but said New Orleans police were capable of handling the crowds and patrolling the rest of the city at the same time. He pointed to the success of several special events the city hosted earlier this month, including the Sugar Bowl and BCS Championship Game.

"Over a 12-day period of time, we hosted nine major events," Landrieu said. "No city in America has ever done that, and it was done safely and it was done well and people can make distinctions, I believe."

However, Tamara Jackson of "Silence Is Violence" said violent crimes happened outside of the city's tourist areas during that same period of time.

"At the end of the day, lives were lost," she said. "And where they view that weekend as being successful and economically impactful, we had several people and victims that happened that weekend."

The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau declined to do an on-camera interview on Wednesday, but in a statement said, "Customers and visitors understand the nature of the shootings, which overwhelmingly occur between people who know each other. New Orleans remains a safe place for visitors and the best city in the country at successfully hosting major special events."

State Rep. Austin Badon, though, believes calling in the National Guard would help and reiterated that to the Governor during the meeting on Wednesday.

"When you look on the horizon on the city with Mardi Gras coming up, we just don't have enough law enforcement within NOPD to secure the visitors who are coming here, as well as to secure all of the neighborhoods," said Badon, D-New Orleans East. "I'm really concerned about the people who call New Orleans home 365 days a year."

On the heels of Carnival season, the city will also be hosting more visitors during the men's Final Four at the end of March. Beyond that, the city will host the Super Bowl next year.

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