By David Jones | WVUE | January 26, 2022
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – The New Orleans Police Department is looking at reimplementing a “proactive component” to address the city’s rise in incidents of violent crime. Anti-crime advocates expect to see a task force similar to the ones disbanded in 2020.
On Tuesday, city spokesperson Beau Tidwell said Mayor LaToya Cantrell and NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson will hold a press conference addressing crime and safety at 1 p.m. Thursday.
“There is now, I think, a move afoot to recreate what we once had, and I expect an announcement in the near future from the police department,” said Rafael Goyeneche, President of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. “That is essentially creating another specialized unit that will be used to address the violent crime surges that we’re experiencing all over town.”
Violent crimes, including homicides, shootings, carjackings and armed robberies are all up this year over last, and up over 2019. Carjackings alone are up 153% over last year.
While cities across the country are battling a violent crime surge, in New Orleans the manpower issue in NOPD has made it all but impossible to proactively police, Goyeneche said.
“Not only are the police officers responding to a crime that’s already occurred, there’s fewer officers to respond,” he said. “What we see is when we put all our eggs into the ‘responding to calls for service basket,’ we see the proliferation of violent crime.”
In 2020, NOPD disbanded its district-based task forces, including the TIGER unit and multi-agency gang task forces. Those task forces were specialized, focused on proactively policing violent drug gangs and stopping armed robberies.
With the city experiencing a surge in violent crime, an announcement of a new task force could be on the horizon.
“Supervision concerns at that time led to the disbanding of the task force,” a spokesperson for NOPD said in a statement. “We are working with our federal monitors to ensure we do not have the issues we had in the past.”
“It wouldn’t hurt to just have more of a police presence in our community,” said newly-elected New Orleans City Councilmember Freddie King, III. “If we can prevent crime from happening, that’s better than trying to get our clearance rate or our solve rate up. There wouldn’t even be a need for that if we can be proactive in preventing crime.”
King said his concern would be that the task force doesn’t target any particular demographic unfairly. But if the NOPD brings forward a task force that complies with federal guidelines, he would support it.
“The number one issue facing this city council, facing this administration, facing this city is crime,” he said. “I would be for proactive policing, if it’s responsible. And if it’s done in a way where every demographic feels comfortable, where nobody feels as if they are being targeted.”
King added that he would like to see other agencies brought in to bolster NOPD’s manpower, like local university police departments or the Louisiana State Police.
“The perception is that we are living in an environment of lawlessness. That’s the perception. Sometimes, perception becomes reality,” King said. “So it’s important that we resolve this crime issue sooner than later, and work together.”
NOPD’s manpower issue is so critical, Goyeneche said police are only responding to the most serious calls for service.
A new task force would not be constrained to a district, and would be able to target hot spots where violent gangs are operating and crime is up, he said.
“And it’s not just gonna be specialized crime, it’s gonna be the types of crime that are fueling the violent crime spikes that we’ve been experiencing over the last two plus years now,” Goyeneche said.