Scoot: Does New Orleans have an ego problem?

July 17, 2017 - 10:27 am

Every day the local news includes stories about murders, shootings, armed assaults and armed carjackings; and every day honest citizens from the city and the surrounding areas are vowing to stay away from New Orleans.  Many of those who do continue to come to the city express new fears, and the right crime may lead them to stop coming to the city.

New Orleans is a destination for the world and we continue to hear the positive news about record-breaking tourism year after year.  It seems those who are exposed to the local news every day are more concerned about crime in New Orleans than the tourists, but is that starting to change?

Crime in New Orleans does hit the national news on occasion; but, locally, we are bombarded with stories about serious crimes threatening tourists and average citizens on a daily basis.  In fact, the news about crime in New Orleans is relentless.  The news media should not be blamed for exaggerating the crime threat – the news media is reporting that a crime threat is real.

Last week during the senate confirmation hearings, Senator John Kennedy, (R) – LA, told President Trump’s nominee for FBI Director, Christopher Wray, that New Orleans is the murder and armed robbery capital of the Western Hemisphere.  Kennedy is known for creating visual imagery with words that might sometimes be embellished.  New Orleans may not be the murder and armed robbery capital of the Western Hemisphere; but right now, the city can be called the murder capital of the country.

Mayor Landrieu was among those who lashed out at Senator Kennedy’s comments implying that the Republican senator had unfairly exaggerated crime in New Orleans.  But murder is up 36% over last year and shootings are up 52%.  The Mayor is pushing his luck to criticize anyone for being honest about the crime challenges we face.  

Mayor Landrieu appears to have a desire for more of a national political spotlight in his future, and the crime rate in New Orleans has been a huge negative on the Mayor’s record.  

News stories usually show that a majority of tourists who come to New Orleans are aware of the crime problem, but they feel safe enough to come anyway and enjoy the city.  When you come to New Orleans, it is easy to be distracted from reality; but if the city’s crime problem continues, particularly the random attacking of tourists, then New Orleans could reach a tipping point where tourists and those planning conventions will begin to pass up New Orleans as a destination for fun or conventions.

Over the weekend, I heard from two different sources say a major convention that comes to New Orleans year after year is now considering passing and holding their convention in another city.  Competition to attract conventions is big business for every city, and one can imagine how other cities are using the crime problem in New Orleans as a selling point for their city.

Here’s what I’ve heard so far from the City.  Tourists continue to come to New Orleans in record numbers; and while crime is a problem, it is not a problem for tourists and conventions. That suggests to me that there is little concern that our precious tourist trade is going to be affected by the growing crime problem in New Orleans.  But is this city’s ego so big that it will not anticipate future trends?

I was born and raised in New Orleans and started my career here.  Over the years, I have noticed a tendency to think New Orleans is great just because it’s New Orleans!  There is an attitude here that “We’re New Orleans!  People love us!”  It is true that New Orleans is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, but I wonder if the attitude that tourists love us doesn’t reflect a false sense of security that tourists will always love us?

I think there could be some complacency in this city that the flow of tourists will never stop just because we’re New Orleans, and that could mean the city does not do enough to deal with the growing crime problem before we reach that tipping point.

The short-sightedness of the Louisiana Legislature led to the near demise of Hollywood South.  Maybe tourists and conventions are keeping their plans and have continued to come to New Orleans, but next year and the ensuing years will determine what impact the crime problem is having on our important tourist dollars.  And, by that time, it will be too late for any last-minute attempts to save a loss of vital tourist revenue.

I remember as a teenager noticing that some of the hottest looking girls, and guys, did not have very good personalities; and I figured out that they didn’t need to work on their personalities because they were hot.  

Is New Orleans concerned enough about tourists and conventions and our growing crime problem?  Or are we like the hot girl or guy that doesn’t have to do anything to get attention?

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