“The crime is way worse than the storm,” Charles Cannon, an English professor at the University of New Orleans who was born and raised in the city, tells the Christian Science Monitor, referring to Hurricane Katrina. About half the population, or 200,000 people, have returned since Katrina. As crime has worsened, some have taken extra measures like backyard floodlights, guns, and dogs to protect themselves. With 10 murders in 2007’s first two weeks, residents are pressuring city leaders and police to crack down on crime – and address underlying issues that contribute to the Big Easy’s culture of permissiveness.
The police force is having trouble retaining officers, losing 17 per month. Also, “People who are most affected by the crime have no confidence in the system,” says Dee Harper, a criminologist at Loyola University. “People don’t come forward. We can’t impanel juries that will convict anybody, especially if the only witness is a police officer. The system is really, really, seriously broken.” Mayor Ray Nagin has asked police to set up early-morning checkpoints in the most crime-prone areas to nab drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He promised more video cameras on public streets and accelerated court processing of murder cases.