U.S. Attorney opens up to business community about crime plan



Posted on December 4, 2013 at 7:57 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 8:00 PM

Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

NEW ORLEANS -- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will be in New Orleans tomorrow morning for the swearing-in ceremony of the new U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite at Cohen High School.

Polite spoke to the business community for the first time Wednesday and told New Orleans Chamber of Commerce members that he plans to make changes in fighting crime.

New U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite brought nearly 1,000 businessmen and women to their feet in a standing ovation. How? He got specific on driving out corruption and violent crime.

"To date we have indicted seven street gangs representing over 74 individuals who previously terrorized the streets of New Orleans. And I can promise you, there are more to come," said Kenneth Polite Jr. from the podium at the Hyatt Hotel.

He said the city's murder rate is seven to eight times the national average.

"This crisis of mostly black on black violence kills on average 40 people across this nation every day. To put that in context, that's worse than the Newtown massacre every 24 hours. That's worse than the 9/11 massacre every two and a half months."

Since around half of ex-offenders go back to prison, he said it's time to get smart on crime with prevention, intervention, reentry and job training and placement for those coming out.

"We live in a state that incarcerates a greater percentage of its residents than any place in the entire world, and yet it remains one of the most violent places in our country," Polite said.

While there are many people in prison here, he said it's the citizens who really live in prison, because we don't feel safe walking around and some don't even feel safe in their own homes.

Chamber of Commerce members are impressed.

"I really liked his idea of the multi-agency gang initiative because we all know that that's a real issue," said Aimee Smallwood CEO of the Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation.

"Crime is a problem, and it's something that if we're going to get businesses to move to the city, we have to face it head on," said accountant Sean Bruno, owner of Sean M. Bruno CPAs.

"If we want to create change, if we want a better atmosphere for our kids and their kids, we've got to start to think about doing things a little differently. And he really challenged us all to do that today. So I was impressed," said Kurt Weigle, president and CEO of the Downtown Development District.

Polite also said with white collar crime, everyone will be treated the same regardless of race, religion, family ties, position in the community, or wealth.