Friday, August 19, 2005

Drugs, Apathy, Ignorance, Fear: The New Orleans Murder Problem

If you clicked on the link below or read the headline you know that my beloved city's murder rate is now ten times the national average. While almost every major city's murder rate is falling, ours is going back up. This does not surprise me at all. As I am writing this there are 200+ murders in the city to date. I don't have the accurate count because it probably just changed a few minutes ago. The fact that some researchers fired 700 rounds in the air and it wasn't reported doesn't surprise me either. If you live here and love it like I do, news like this can only depress you. If you are a young black male(the majority of the victims) it can depress you and scare you at the same time. Of course, I am not an expert at these kind of matters but just like I said about the school board, I can't do any worse. Here is what I think the problem is and the solution.
Drugs everywhere
I could be exaggerating but it would not be a hard to believe that a third of the people in this city are on some kind of illegal drug. Drugs have taken over almost every neighborhood in this city. Lots of users equals lots of dealers and lots of dealers equals lots of competition and that's when the violence starts. There are too many adult men in this city that depend on drugs as the way to make a living. Unfortunately, violence is a bi product of that trade and many do what they have to do to survive.
Nameless, Faceless Victims
One of the reasons why the murder rate goes up and it seems like no one notices is the fact that the news coverage of the victims is so passive that no one even realizes what happened. You have to tell the truth about everything in order to bring about change. My daddy always says that when you control the media, you control what everyone sees. Whenever there is a murder in this city that doesn't involve and elderly person, a white person, or a child, it is placed somewhere in the middle of the metro section of the paper or mentioned on the news in passing. Maybe, if we act like someone shot the president when the first murder happened and make that person's life have some meaning we would take notice before the count got overwhelming. Give those young brothers laying in the streets a face like the other victims and see if that changes everybody's outlook on it. They are people too and loved by somebody.
Hopelessness and Ignorance
It's pretty sad that in a country that's spending billions of dollars in Iraq, has school systems in it that are so poor and badly run that kids 9 and 10 years old are basically giving up on life and hitting the streets. These young men simply have nothing in their life that tells them there is hope beyond what's going on around the block. Yes, they are ignorant but they were not born that way. There are no daddies, no opportunities, no education and no self worth. When you have those going on, you will always have a group of people that just don't care. Why should they? In their minds, no one has ever cared about them anyway so killing a man is no big deal.
Doing the Crime but not the Time
There are allot of killers walking around the streets of New Orleans. Many people know who they killed and why. The problem is that while someone may call and report the person, no one will come and testify against them. There are two reasons for this. The first and main reason is that people are scared to testify and the police and DA's office has done a poor job of protecting witnesses. No one really wants their neighborhood to be dangerous and have killers walking the streets preying on everybody. At the same time, no one wants to put themselves or their family in danger so they make the safe decision for themselves and be quiet. I actually think that this wouldn't be as big of a problem if people in this city actually served the time for what they did. There's too many people let out on technicalities or back door deals to think it's worth the risk of testifying only to see the same guy walking up the street six months later because the police had the wrong date on the warrant papers or something minor like that. The second and less talked about reason is something that is totally our fault as a community. We are just too close sometimes to get the heart to turn in somebody. If you have been knowing Ms. Jones for 40 years, you won't be so quick to call the police on Ms. Jones crazy grandchildren as fast as you should. As much damage as they do, we simply don't have the heart to turn in certain people. (Did I just agree with Harry Lee?)
No one really cares
There has always been a carefree charm in New Orleans that draws people here. That same care free charm has manifested itself into apathy as it relates to crime. With all the murders in the last 15 years, I still don't think most people see it as a problem affecting them unless someone they know gets killed. Outside of friends and love ones, we are not really shaken by the news of another killing unless it's a child or the elderly. The reality of it is that in some cases people are happy the victim is dead because more than not they are usually responsible for allot of death and crime themselves.
Sometime else that bugs me is that I watch all these national news shows and read all these magazines and newspapers and I never see all these media hogging black leaders expressing any outrage for the state of a city that is one of if the most predominately black in the nation. I guess we don't have enough money or influence for Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson to come and find out why the school system and murder rate is as bad as they are. I figured out a long time ago that for better or worse the poor and working class of New Orleans is on their own. We got to get it all turned around on our own.

Coming Soon.............Part 2 The Solutions

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