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New Orleans councilmembers hear from emotional crowd in crime meeting

Wednesday, councilmembers heard from residents demanding action.

NEW ORLEANS — In New Orleans, crime hits close to home for many.

Wednesday, councilmembers heard from residents demanding action.

"When you got to go to the gas station with your gun on your hip, when you’ve got to go to the grocery store with your gun on your pocket, that’s a war zone,” one man said.

"Where are the facilities?" A woman said. “Where is NORD. We need facilities like NORD. NORD changed my life as a child.”

Another neighbor believes education is the key: “We went from integration to gentrification all on the backs of miseducation, so if you want to fix crime, fix the schools.” 

“We have gun control,” another resident testified. “We have this and we have that. We’re doing the same crazy insane things over and over and over again.”

The special meeting on crime comes at a time when the city is experiencing its highest murder rate since 1996.

The council’s crime analyst Jeff Asher gave an overview of the 2022 crime trends. It showed aggravated assault, armed robbery, car theft, and vehicles burglaries have all seen double-digit increases year over year. 

“We’ve seen a persistently high level of gun violence and murder in New Orleans,” Asher said. “Really in 2022, we’ve reached levels we haven’t seen since Hurricane Katrina.”

Emotions ran high in the chamber as tempers flared in the crowd.

The meeting had to be stopped several times to get the situation under control. 

One woman was handcuffed, and other people were escorted out of the meeting by police.

Councilmembers responded to some of the crowd's concerns. 

“Whereas people saw the conflict and the raised voices today as chaos, what I saw is a community that’s in pain,” City Council President J.P. Morrell said. “People are in pain.”

Councilmembers proposed a series of measures to address what they called an “epidemic of crime.”

They touched on topics such as responsible gun ownership, truancy, and juvenile curfew. 

New Orleans Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno called violent crime a public health crisis in the city.

She said data shows murder is the fourth leading cause of death for black men in New Orleans.

“I would submit we would not tolerate any other disease that targeted a segment of our community so deliberately with such deadly results,” Dr. Avegno said. “This from a public health perspective should be no different.”

Councilman Oliver Thomas put a finer point on the crisis saying crime knocks on every door, including his own.

“Just in the last couple of months, my family, 57 bullets riddled in a car of one family member,"  Thomas said. "Then burying another loved one with a bullet in the head just a couple of weeks ago.”

Most of the crime fighting measures proposed at the meeting will be taken up for debate in various city council committees at a later date.

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