NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans East neighborhood has been plagued with issues for more than a decade.
Lack of businesses, blight and problems with crime in some of the neighborhoods remain a problem.
Some feel there is a lack of police presence compared to other parts of the city, while others sympathize with law enforcement. Many are just tired of the negative perception and are taking it on themselves to help bring the East back.
Caresse Jackman spent the past few months exploring all of these issues, looking at the neighborhood’s past, the present and the potential future in a four part series we are calling “The Forgotten East”
Part 1: Crime
In 2000, the N.O. East population was 96,363. After the storm ( between 2013-2017) the population dropped to 74,132 people.
Lake Carmel resident Ronald Walker has been living in the East since the 1980s. You can tell he loves his neighborhood, but everyday his frustration grows.
“Now this is the houses that were hit (by car break-ins)” Walker said as we drove through his neighborhood. “Every last one on this block. 15 houses hit."
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After showing us around Lake Carmel, we drove to one of the nearby subdivisions and met a neighbor. She did not want to be identified, but said her neighborhood is a good one. However, she agrees with Walker that car break-ins are an issue.
“And it’s children that’s not even from this neighborhood,” she said.
Walker says neighbors are doing everything they can. Especially because most of the homeowners in his area are retired. He feels the NOPD is short on patrols and long on response time.
“We call the police, they're a no show,” Walker said.
Walker said he spoke with 7th District Commander Lawrence Dupree.
“He says there’s a manpower shortage. He said they’re suppose to get more police,” Walker said.
The NOPD is struggling with a man power shortage and has been for years. To top things off, New Orleans East, the NOPD’s 7th District, is the city’s largest.
Eyewitness News repeatedly asked the NOPD for an on-camera interview, but our requests were never answered.
We sat in on one of the NOPD’s weekly crime stats meetings in the 7th District in June. They talked about violent and property crime. Things appeared to be improving.
One citizen who attended the meeting was Calvin Spears. Spears lives in the Lakewood East neighborhood. Spears has lived in the East since 1978.
He attends almost every crime statistics meeting and had the notepad to prove it.
Spears likes to keep up with what is going on, especially since he is the treasurer of his homeowners association.
“I tell ya what, one thing that keeps me here, in the East, I don’t have to pay a mortgage,” Spears said.
Like Walker, he’s seen changes come and go.
"Crime is not really bad in my subdivision, but it's on the fringes,” Spears said.
However, property crime remains high. Property Crime is higher across the entire city in 2019 than it was the year before, with auto burglaries being the highest, particularly in the 7th District.
According to the NOPD’s community outreach and public information plan from 2016, The 7th District had 91 officers. Its boundaries are the Industrial Canal to St. Tammany Parish and from St. Bernard Parish to Lake Pontchartrain. The Seventh District encompasses approximately 133 square miles.
Spears says he thanks police for trying their best given the situation.
“I think all of the power that be is still working on it, trying to come up with some kind of solution. We just have to still applaud these officers here in the 7th District, because I think they’re doing an awesome job with the personnel that they have,” Spears said.
Ronald Walker, however, still remains frustrated.
“It’s your biggest district in the city. They won’t make a substation. They won’t put priority of assigning police men there,” Walker said.
There is another lingering problem Walker and Spears notice than just crime: Blight.
Forgotten East is a four-part series by Reporter Caresse Jackman. To see the rest of the series, follow these links