The murder total in New Orleans is down, but of the nearly 350 killings in the past two years, 91 percent of the victims have been black. It’s a cycle that’s worrisome to the city’s African-American community and law enforcement, NPR reports. To help address the problem, New Orleans’ cops are taking an unusual approach: talking to 12-year-olds. The goal is to repair relationships between communities and law enforcement, says Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas. When he took office four years ago, Serpas faced a raft of problems: high crime rates, police corruption, dismal approval ratings. An independent poll showed just one-third of residents were satisfied with the police. “When I saw a 33 percent overall department approval, it was clear that in the summer of ’10 we were looking at a department that was in complete disconnect from the community it served,” Serpas says. “That is never a good place to be as a police officer.”
Today, in every survey category, the police department is improving. Sixty percent of people say they are satisfied with the police in general, 72 percent are satisfied with the officers in their neighborhood, and 81 percent feel safe at home. “That tells me we’re winning the city back, one cop, one contact at a time,” Serpas says. “And we’re making huge headway.” On a recent morning at A.P. Tureaud Elementary School, Sgt. L.J. Smith stood in front of a group of sixth-graders. Smith told them he became a cop to help people and that he was there to talk about making the right choices. “So now, what we’re going to do is, we’re going to watch a short film,” Smith told the kids. “OK, play close attention. Because after, we’re going to ask you all some questions.” The eight-minute film was funded with $50,000 in private money. It tells the stories of two young New Orleans men in prison: one serving eight years for attempted armed robbery; the other serving 40 for attempted murder.