By Jackie Galli | Mid-City Messenger | June 14, 2022
Bianka Lebeouf was putting up fliers this weekend with her children for a neighborhood public safety meeting when she heard gunshots.
One of the shots she heard resulted in a man’s death.
Those gunshots were just one of several incidents Lebeouf experienced this past weekend; her truck was broken into, she said, and two men in ski masks were causing concerns for the neighborhood.
Lebouf has lived in her home along St. Bernard Avenue for eight years. “I love my house, I love my neighbors,” she said. “I hate my neighborhood.”
Incidents like the ones Lebeouf experienced are what pushed Morgan Clevenger of the Fairgrounds Triangle Neighborhood Association to call for a public safety meeting.
More than 25 Fairgrounds Triangle residents came to St. Leo the Great Catholic Church on Monday (June 14) to discuss the recent crime wave with District D Councilman Eugene Green and five police officers including First District Commander Capt. Terry St. Germain and Third District Lt. Ernest Luster.
Clevenger said there are several hotspots for crime in her area, including St. Bernard Avenue and North Broad Street, and Onzaga Street and Paul Morphy Street near the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots entrance.
“There are some neighbors that didn’t come tonight, mostly our seniors in their 70s and 80s and 90s,” Clevenger said during the meeting. “Many of them told me, ‘We want to come but we’re scared.’ They’re scared to go home from the meeting.”
At the meeting, many neighbors spoke of their experiences with crime. And they were looking for solutions to the growing issue of crime and violence in their area, and the city as a whole.
One attendee, Eric St. Pierre, who lives in the 1600 block of Paul Morphy Street, had been a recent victim of an attempted armed car theft by three juveniles.
He was in his car when they came up to him with guns, and tried to get him to roll his windows down. He declined and pulled off. They shot at him while he drove away.
“You guys can see the bullet holes in the car if you want,” St. Pierre said.
Addressing that incident, St. Germain said that the assailants had arrived in a stolen car Uptown, and after that car became disabled they attempted to carjack other people, including St. Pierre.
Two of those juveniles are in police custody, St. Germain said. One was unarmed, and the other had a weapon that hadn’t been discharged. So the teenager who shot at St. Pierre is still on the street.
Tandra Smith, another neighbor at the meeting who also lives in the 1600 block of Paul Morphy, said the gunshots woke her up. “I didn’t know if they were something I heard in my dream,” she said.
It took a long time before she learned the shots were from her neighbor’s attempted armed robbery. “The community should know,” she said.
Clevenger said that when you have been a witness or a victim of a crime, not knowing makes the fear even worse. Residents need more follow-up from the police, she said.
The Third District’s Luster said one problem is a systemic issue of recidivism. People are arrested and then let go the next day, he said.
“You can’t keep guys off the streets if they aren’t prosecuted,” he said.
Green quoted a statistic from the Metropolitan Crime Commission’s Orleans Prosecution Bulletin, that from Jan. 1 until June 2 of this year, there were 776 violent felony arrests in the city with 626 of those cases accepted. Green said in 2021, officers made over 3,500 arrests, but many didn’t get charged and were let out.
“It’s unfair, because they think that’s how the system works,” Green said.
Green said the City Council will be voting on a 2% pay raise for police. They recognize police need help, he said. He hopes to stop hearing about how we don’t have enough police.
“Criminals especially don’t need to hear police are short staffed,” he said.
In terms of what the neighbors can do to help to prevent crime, Luster stressed how important it is to be situationally aware and minimize your risk for crimes of opportunity.
“You have to have a bullet-proof mind,” he said. “Be very cognizant of your surroundings.”
St. Germain said a major problem is people leaving their cars running — and leaving guns inside. Criminals aren’t hot-wiring cars anymore, he said, and they aren’t stealing radios. They are looking for weapons.
Clevenger promotes a three-pronged approach to help reduce gun violence in the city. The city needs to invest in education for gun owners, she said. At the same time, there should be a massive public relations and education campaign around legal gun ownership and a city-wide gun-buyback program.
“We have to bring everybody in with the community,” she said. That means, she said, bringing the police, the City Council, the district attorney’s office and others together to find ways to reduce the crime rate.
Jackie Galli is a journalism student at Loyola University and a reporting intern at NOLA Messenger. She can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org.