Can the police do anything?
Is murder making a comeback in New Orleans? And should we care if it's the usual drug dealer on drug dealer type of violence that was driving the majority of homicides before Katrina?
The shooting in the French Quarter was notable because it represented a random attack on someone innocent, just like the shotgun killing of Michael Frey a couple of months ago in the Marigny.
Even blacks who live in poor crack-ridden neighborhoods live in fear of crime, but will acknowledge that those who prey on others eventually become the preyed upon. Those who live by the gun, die by the gun. Those who survive, go to jail. Innocents are largely left alone unless they're unfortunate enough to find themselves in the middle of a gun fight.
I'm not saying that any of that is acceptable. Drug dealing and violence in anyone's neighborhood is absolutely intolerable. When innocents are killed, I'd advocate that the punishment be determined by the victims' loved ones, not excluding public executions by whatever manner they feel is justified (you shudder -- but just ask the family of a murder victim what they think is appropriate punishment).
I don't really care what happens to those who destroy the hope of others by profiting from death. Actually I do care -- I care that they get what's coming to them. They have lost their humanity. They might at some point regret their choices and have a change of heart, but they are still due their punishment. While we can't tolerate vigilantes because justice has to be dispensed by the rule of law, where laws aren't enforced, I wouldn't be opposed to taking out drug dealers ourselves.
What's particularly shocking are those incidents where the innocent become involved -- whether they're white, black, hispanic, Vietnamese, rich or poor. We've seen all classes and ethnicities in New Orleans affected by heinous crimes in the last couple of decades.
NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley is saying don't worry -- crime is down. Is that a satisfactory answer?
Shouldn't we mourn every innocent gunned down. Shouldn't we vilify cowards who bring guns to fights and attack without warning.
Is there anything the NOPD can really do about these random acts of violence?
Well, yes! There is! Riley's answer is pathetic.
First of all, a bar that's open at 3:45 a.m. ought to be more vigilant of the behavior of its patrons. It should be illegal not to have security inside and outside the premises -- at a minimum. I'd even suggest that the bar should be required to use its better judgment and escort patrons who require care getting to wherever they're headed. That should just be the price of selling liquor 24/7. You can't have bars selling liquor all night long without an eventual cost to society.
The chances are pretty good that a guy who breaks a bottle over a woman's head, and punches another one in the face, already has a criminal record. Furthermore, I suspect there's more than a good chance that the perpetrator was a contractor, just as the victim appeared to be a contractor. I suspect that a high percentage of contractors are bottom of the barrel scavengers responsible for bringing crime into the city, just as much as returning drug dealers are responsible for incidents related to fights over territory.
What can the NOPD do about that? How about more active traffic stops? How about foot patrols near bars where there are known problems? How about a contracting system that requires every non-resident contractor working in Orleans parish to register with the city? That would make it possible for the NOPD to conduct criminal history checks on the people coming here to work.
I've supported Riley before, but he may just be too used to crime the way it was before Katrina. We need someone in charge who doesn't defend current crime rates by simply referring to the relatively higher crime rates before Katrina. We don't just need a statistician. We need someone with compassion. We need someone with an imaginative approach to fighting crime, and a little more enthusiasm. We might need someone else in charge.