Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How safe do you feel?

Today is the last day to register to vote in the October 24 elections.  In addition to the exciting task of picking a Governor (apparently Gambit doesn't care about that one) as well as a slate of local representatives and statewide officeholders, voters in the French Quarter will decide whether or not they want to authorize hoteliers to keeps State Troopers and as well as the quasi-privatized NOLA Patrol and French Quarter Task Force on permanent retainer.
It's been about 200 days since the latest round of Louisiana State Police troopers arrived to New Orleans, focusing their patrols on the French Quarter and beyond.

Edmonson held a news conference on Tuesday saying their efforts have been a success, with troopers responding to more than 4,100 calls of service since March.

"We just went over the 1,200 arrest mark, when you look at the illegal weapons we've seized right here in the French Quarter & surrounding areas," Edmonson said.

Right now there are 50 state troopers patrolling the French Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods. Edmonson confirms the assignment runs through January of next year.

"[For example] on a $100 purchase it would be a quarter. That money would go towards funding Louisiana State Police staying in the French Quarter over the next five years," said Ryan Berni with the Landrieu administration.

On Oct. 24, registered voters in the French Quarter will be voting on a proposed quarter-cent sales tax for the Vieux Carre.

"The money from the sales tax itself would actually go to funding the state troopers. There's also money that will be matched from the hospitality entities," said Berni, who also confirms if the sales tax passes, it would open the door for the hospitality industry to match funding for Nola Patrol and the French Quarter Task Force.
Why do the hotels want their own police? It probably isn't because they want to offer a benevolent service in the interest of public safety. Besides, crime in New Orleans has been on more or less a steady decline for over a decade.
In 2004, violent crime rates in New Orleans were almost twice the national average. By 2013, both local and national violent crime rates had fallen by 17 and 21 percent respectively.
Crime is down

Excepting a brief post-Katrina spike, violent crime has been falling in New Orleans (and around the country) for most of my adult lifetime.

And yet popular paranoia only continues to rise. Mitch Landrieu works his red binders into every interview as a prop. We clamor for more and more surveillance everywhere.  David Vitter recently took full advantage of the racial dog whistle implied within every politician's talk about street crime by tying it to efforts to remove Confederate monuments.

The hysteria scans closely with the so-called "war on cops" myth being propagated by right wing critics of the post-Ferguson protest movement against police violence. In fact 2015 is on pace to be the "second safest year on record" for police.
According to data available from the “Officer Down Memorial Page” on the annual number of non-accidental, firearm-related police fatalities, 2015 is on track to be the safest year for law enforcement in the US since 1887 (except for a slightly safer year in 2013), more than 125 years ago (see top chart above). And adjusted for the country’s growing population, the years 2013 and 2015 will be the two safest years for police in US history (see bottom chart above), measured by the annual number of firearm-related police fatalities per 1 million people.

The two charts above reveal a picture of increasing police safety in the US that is much different than the narrative we hear all the time in the media about a “war on cops” and increasing risks of death for America’s law enforcement. From a peak of more than 100 police shootings in every year between 1969 to 1980 (except for 1977 when there were 97 deaths), firearm-related police fatalities have been on a downward trend for the last 35 years, falling to only 31 in 2013 and now on track to reach 35 by the end of this year (based on 24 police deaths during the first 251 days of 2015). We can see the same downward trend in annual firearm-related police deaths adjusted for the size of the US population (bottom chart), which will make 2013 and 2015 the two safest years for law enforcement in US history.
Meanwhile, according to a database maintained by The Guardian, police have killed 855 people in the United States so far this year.

And yet, last week State Treasurer John Kennedy said in a speech that law enforcement in New Orleans needs to be "more aggressive."
But then he got to his prime concern, crime in New Orleans.

"We all know that we don't feel as safe as we should, and I will tell you that people are not going to come to, move to, or invest in a place where they don't feel safe," Kennedy told the group. saying there is a solution.

"We need to figure out a way how to get the guns, and the dope and the thugs off the street,” he said. "The very first part of that plan ought to be an aggressive stop and frisk policy in New Orleans. We need to back up our cops."
Kennedy may or may not be aware but Mike Edmonson says the State Police are already doing this anyway.  Despite this, and despite what the numbers might tell us about how safe we actually are, Kennedy says the real problem is "we don't feel as safe as we should."  We can't have that. Certainly, the hoteliers can't have that, anyway.  And so to assuage those bad feelings, we're going to be more "aggressive" and we're going to pay the State Troopers and Sidney's not-cops to help us do that.

That is, unless French Quarter residents vote against the tax increase.  They say they're for it. Or, at least, their self-appointed spokes-orgs say they like it, anyway.
French Quarter advocates and business owners support the new tax.

“This is not good just for the French Quarter, but the entire city,” Meg Lousteau, executive director of the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates citizens group, told the council.
So, that's not encouraging.  Maybe it will sound better after Cheron Brylski finds them a black spokesperson to say it for them, though.  

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