The Truth About Juvenile Crime in New Orleans

Photo Credit: Bart Everson, Flickr Creative Commons

This week New Orleans implemented a strict curfew, a new Orleans Parish Juvenile Court policy allowing judges to decide more often when to detain juveniles before their court dates, and a host of other intervention methods intended to lower a so-called “spike” in juvenile crime across the city.

But how much has juvenile crime really gone up in 2019?

Data compiled by the City Council’s crime analyst Jeff Asher shows that it hasn’t. In fact, the number of juveniles arrested on nonviolent charges is down 31.6 percent in 2019 when compared to this time last year. The number arrested on violent charges is down 27 percent.

By comparison, the number of adults arrested on nonviolent charges is down only 12.7 percent, and the number of adults arrested on violent charges is down only 6.3 percent.

While we can’t deny that the percentage of kids arrested for breaking into cars is up when compared to this time last year (25 percent of juvenile arrests in 2019 compared to 6.5 percent last year, according to The Advocate), the overall narrative that juvenile crime is worse this year is disingenuous.

Many residents and advocacy groups have pointed out the contradictory narrative in recent weeks. Aaron Clark-Rizzio, director of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, which acts as New Orleans’ public defender for juveniles worries that the stricter curfew enforcement and detainment measures are going to cause a burden on families.

“This burden and this targeting is going to fall almost entirely on black children and their families,” he told Jess Clark of WWNO.

“It’s going to connect families to the court system – that’s going to take families away from their ability to work on days that they need to be in court, children away from school when they need to be here. It could add additional burdens on them to participate in programming, which increases the need to find transportation.”

Under the city’s curfew, children 16 and under are not allowed in public without a parent after 9 p.m. on weeknights, or 11 p.m. on weekend nights. Those who are found out after curfew will be taken into police custody, and their parents will be contacted. If the parents can’t be reached, the child will be taken to the Covenant House shelter. If a child violates curfew three times, the parents or guardian will be issued a court summons.

While the city hopes that this will help lower juvenile crime and victimization, studies show that they are largely ineffective.

The Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights as planned a rally and press conference at the upcoming City Council meeting on June 6th.

“This lock ’em up approach hasn’t worked in the past and won’t work in the future,” the group says on the event’s Facebook page. “If we want a safer community, we need to do things differently. On Thursday, let’s show our elected officials that we want to invest in our youth, not in locking it up.”

The group is encouraging all New Orleans residents and parents to attend.

Author/Editor’s Note:

Shortly after publication, we received the following statement from Hannah Kreiger-Benson, with the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans:

“The children shown in the photo are street performers known as ‘bucket drummers’, and they are not an appropriate image for an article on juvenile crime. There is a long and troubling history of them being criminalized by law enforcement, residents and businesses. The language used around these kids is hugely problematic– the assumptions made about them, and the ways they are treated, often show deep racial and class bias. My organization, the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MaCCNO) has worked with Quarter stakeholders and NOPD for several years to try and find solutions to concerns around the bucket drummers, hence my knowledge of this issue.
Including a photo of bucket drummers (or honestly, any photo of children of color) as the visual for a piece on juvenile crime is absolutely inexcusable– it furthers deep-seated prejudices and is, at best, a deeply tone-deaf and lazy choice. A public apology and recognition of how it was a harmful action would be appropriate, and at the very least remove the image from the article.”

At their request, the original photo accompanying this article has been changed. It was certainly not my intention to appear tone-deaf or lazy. In fact, I gave quite a bit of thought over whether or not to use that particular photo. This article was written and published with the intent of highlighting the fact that the narrative around juvenile crime in New Orleans is mistaken – or at the very least, misguided, and that includes the perception of the young men featured in the picture. I had hoped to encourage parents and residents with concerns on the prevailing narrative to attend the rally and city council meeting on Thursday. To those who were offended, or who felt my choice was tone-deaf, I apologize.

Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist and editor whose work has been featured in publications such as The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News,, and others. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_

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