NEW ORLEANS After citing a long list of accomplishments and great progress made in the city since he took office, a major thrust of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's 2012 State of the City speech dealt with an issue that has dogged his administration, much like his predecessors: violence on the streets of the city.
'Reducing violent crime and murder in New Orleans -- making New Orleans safe -- has been and will continue to be the most important issue facing this city and its future. We must find a way to stop the killing,' said Landrieu.
Landrieu unveiled a new plan, NOLA for Life, to tackle the violence that continues to plague New Orleans -- an ambitious plan Landrieu hopes will 'end violence crime and murder in our city.'
We must all do our part,' said Landrieu, acknowledging that not all New Orleanians are fault for the murders, but asking for all of the citizens to be responsible to cease the violence.
NOLA for Life, is a five-point plan, according to the mayor. Landrieu said the plan calls for first stopping the shootings in New Orleans, then investing in prevention, promoting jobs and opportunities, improving the New Orleans Police Department and community involvement and rebuilding neighborhoods.
The mayor said the plan will be funded with a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
'We must change our culture of death, the ugly side of our city. We have no other choice. With each death we lose what is most valuable, a precious life. Each life is precious and with each murder our future grows dimmer,' said Landrieu.
While acknowledging the city's violence problem, Landrieu called the violence issue something that New Orleans has dealt with for decades.
'Finally, some say this is just a 'New Orleans problem', like there is something in the water down here. But the truth is that every American city has neighborhoods where young men are killing and being killed at alarming rates. This problem is not unique to our city, but we have more of it.'
Of 199 murders in New Orleans in 2011, Landrieu said 'Murders are highly concentrated in three or four neighborhoods; most perpetrators and victims are unemployed African-American men between 16-25 with little education and long criminal records; and in 78 percent of the cases, the perpetrators and victims know each other.'
Landrieu said that the first part of the plan will require reaching a small number of young men who are involved in the violence, either as perpetrators or victims, and getting them to lay down their weapons.The mayor was adamant that shootings must cease before other initiatives, such as jobs and development, could be enacted.
'This is unnatural. We must say that this is unacceptable. That this has to stop. Make no mistake, it can be fixed. There is an answer to this problem,' said Landrieu.