Monday, November 24, 2008

Not just another crime statistic

There has always been crime in New Orleans. The term "Big Easy" was supposedly coined by criminals to describe how sweet the environment was for them to ply their trade. Much of the pre-Katrina crime had been linked to drug activity, although statistically many of the crimes reported by police were perpetrated as black on black crime. Occasionally, when white citizens were robbed or shot by black criminals, the news media invariably bordered on the verge of being inflammatory in the coverage of these opprobrious acts. We have always tolerated crime in a way that very few outsiders understand. It may be that it goes back to when Louisiana was first settled by those hapless criminals whose jails were emptied and those French women who had worked in the brothels. Many of them were exiled here to live a hard life beyond the protection of French society. Years later, buccaneers like Jean Lafitte operated in the open in nearby Barataria, unchecked by any police force. Lafitte, as many of you will recall, was so powerful that General Andrew Jackson enlisted him and his men in order to protect the city at the Battle of New Orleans. Years after the Civil War, the Louisiana Lottery proved to be as corrupt as any endeavor ever imagined by petty crooks, only on a grander scale. Perhaps, because of our history, successful criminals have garnered undeserved admiration for their plots and scheming. Following the exodus from Hurricane Katrina, when the city was emptied of all but non-essential personnel, there was virtually no crime. For weeks there wasn't even one person killed in a city known in the past as the Murder Capital of the U.S. As residents returned, however, the crime statistics began to inch up. Today I can tell you that the crime wave in New Orleans has now become more personal. My son called me to tell me that he had been held up at knifepoint on Friday evening at dusk. His wallet and cell phone had been demanded and he gave them up without incident. When the police responded, he gave them a detailed description of the offender -- a white male in his 40s wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey -- and assumed that it was the last time he would see his cell phone or his wallet again. Surprisingly, he got a call from the police Sunday. Apparently, the same perpetrator had attempted to try the same thing on Saturday night. This time his would-be victim got the upper hand and through sheer force or knowledge of martial arts stripped him of his weapon and proceeded to inflict serious harm to his body. When police were summoned to the scene, my son's description (he was still wearing the Dallas Cowboys jersey) came up. Not only did they have his weapon, but also a plastic bag found on his person contained my son's wallet (sans cash of course) and cell phone. The officers returned my son's wallet and cell phone and had him sign papers preferring charges against the perpetrator for aggravated assault. I have urged my son to take whatever measures are necessary to see that this lowlife is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. He is lucky and I am relieved (even though he didn't tell me about the incident until after the police had returned his possessions). As if to reinforce what I already knew, a new report by Congressional Quarterly says New Orleans is America's most crime-ridden city. Believe me, brother, I know. I know.

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