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'We have no Plan B' | Organizer says NOPD plan to halt crime has to work

Attendees at the gathering of crime-fighting groups had praise for WWL-TV's special, Wounded City: A Look at Crime in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — City Council members were there. So was New Orleans Police Chief Shaun Ferguson, and the recently hired police consultants, former New York Police commander Fausto Pichardo and management guru John Linder. 

The main item on the menu: public safety.

The New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation’s annual luncheon Thursday came on the heels of that non-profit organization raising the money to hire Pichardo and Linder in an effort to bolster a depleted police department and launch new crime-fighting strategies.

The group’s founder, John Casbon, told the several hundred in attendance, “This initiative will work. We have no Plan B.”

Chairperson Elizabeth Boh said the outcry from the public about crime helped fuel the foundation’s recent efforts, reprising the same recruiting and support role that the group played shortly after it was founded in the high-crime era of the mid-1990s.

“We're starting to see a cry from the public to have change,” she said. “We all recognize now that I think it's a crisis. And that something needs to be done.”

On two big screens at the Sheraton Grand Ballroom, the luncheon featured a WWL-TV story that aired Tuesday night showing one of the first police district roll calls since front-line patrols were beefed up by re-deploying detectives and ranking officers to help answer a backlog of police calls.

Many in attendance also commented on WWL-TV one-hour special report that aired Wednesday evening. “Wounded City” was an in-depth special focusing on the complicated causes at the root of the city’s crime surge, as well as possible solutions. The special report revisited many of the strategies that were used when the Police Foundation first hired Linder during the tenure of then-Police Chief Richard Pennington. 

“I thought your timing was impeccable because I feel we're right at a turning point,” Boh said. “Your showcasing of what the issues are, and what the issues have been, and our efforts to make change are very, very timely.”

Boh said the WWL-TV report captured voices not often heard in the discussions about how to build a safer city.

“I thought the special was spot on. It highlighted victims and showed a lot from the victims' point of view,” she said.

Chuck Morse, a pastor and executive director of Thrive NOLA said Wounded City’s focus on how to reach out to young people who are at risk by virtue of dealing with trauma matches his own efforts in the community.

“Oh, I loved the special,” Morse said. “I loved the personal stories. I loved hearing about the young man turning his life around.”

Crimestoppers President Darlene Cusanza said she hopes the special report helps spark serious conversations at all levels – inside and outside of city government – on how to make the city safer.  

“I thought it was great,” Cusanza said. “Because it showed the sides we don't often hear from. Sort of the trauma and the steps that victims' families go through. And also the challenges we're seeing in the community.”

RELATED: Wounded City: How other police departments successfully curbed violent crime

RELATED: How New Orleans cut its murder rate in half in the 90s

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