Tommy: Let's get real about crime in New Orleans

Tommy Tucker, WWL First News
July 14, 2017 - 12:07 pm

Crime in New Orleans.  Those four words have become inexorably linked in our local lexicon.  But should they be? I had an interesting conversation with former NOPD superintendent turned Loyola professor Ronal Serpas and he shared some interesting insights.

Among my takeaways:

To think that the crime problem is going to get better any sooner than 4-8 years is a dream only.  It’s a hard puzzle to piece together and that’s never done quickly.

He also said that expecting NOPD to take care of the Crescent City’s crime problem all by themselves can never happen. The concept of community policing is great but the proper execution of that program requires cooperation between every department in City government.

“Community policing has been what’s made great headway in the last 20 years in America….Community policing has to be a something where officers have the time to do so and the support of the government.”

If someone complains to their local police officer about a condition that lends itself to criminal activity, that officer has to be able to report it and something actually happen from the city to fix it. It should be reported to a supervisor, then make its way up the NOPD chain of command. From there it should go to the mayor’s office where the department of public works or the proper agency would be assigned to take care of the problem.

“If you’re going to get them (the police officers) on the street, walking and talking, you have to a government system behind them to solve the problem when you walk on the street and someone says, ‘Officer, that abandoned lot over there makes me afraid.’ If that officer just says, ‘hey, thank you,’ that’s a tactic, not a strategy.  A strategy is that officer could push that information back to the city government, and the city would sent somebody out to fix.”

If they do, then the citizen BELIEVES in the system and, more importantly, the officer to whom they spoke in the first place.  They then will view the men and women in blue as reliable and credible. That could mean EVERYTHING when it comes to witnesses coming forward when they witness a crime.

The converse, unfortunately, is also true. If a complaint is given to a local officer and nothing gets done and there is no follow up the officer is perceived to have no credibility. The people in the neighborhood then tend to think “nothing’s going to be done anyway so why should I get involved?”


One final thing. As mayoral candidates are vetted, we shouldn’t be satisfied with the same old platitudes.  When one says “I have a solution to the crime problem” the follow up questions should be “what is it” and then “what are the SPECIFIC steps will you take and how do you know they will work”?  Finally, Mr. Serpas indicated that, while he thinks current superintendent is a good man, it would be better to start anew with a nation-wide search for a new police chief.

“I travel the country looking at police chiefs all year long.  There are a lot of proven police chiefs in America in departments our size who would find New Orleans, with a new mayor and a new administration, an opportunity they’d want to be a part of.”

Among the qualifications?  Their resume should include a record of proven results when fighting crime in a city with the same crime problems as New Orleans.

You can check out my entire interview with Serpas below.

Let's get real about crime in New Orleans


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