We Can Better Combat Crime by Re-Prioritzing Funding & Support Services

NOPD” by Joffley is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Saturday night’s attempted armed robbery in Houston that killed 13-year NOPD veteran detective Everett Briscoe and wounded fellow Zulu member Dryin Riculfy is another terrifying warning that any of us can be a victim of crime anywhere, anytime. 

District B Councilmember Jay Banks, a close friend of Briscoe, was correct when he said yesterday that “no other family should have to go through this.” Banks called Briscoe’s death was a cancer of senselessness that has to stop. “If you have a cure for crime, tell me,” he implored television viewers. “If I had the answers I promise I would have done it.”

Crimes – especially murders and armed robberies – are being committed at an alarming rate in all major cities across America. Driven by the country’s racial tension as well as COVID deaths and its economic consequences, this general unrest has put the nation on edge and only expanded the gap between the haves and the have nots.

Experts agree that short and long-term solutions to crime do exist. They require a commitment to funding innovative and existing programs and the willingness of all members of the New Orleans community – elected officials, faith based leaders, parents, educators, the business community and even the criminal justice system – to work cooperatively toward that goal. Together the community’s leaders must have the civic will to succeed, regardless of the costs and other barriers that might get in the way. 

It would be easy to say that combating crime starts with the NOPD – the need to hire and retain more police officers and to increase pay, working conditions and morale. But New Orleans cannot arrest its way out of crime. 

The work must start at home with families living in affordable, stable housing, free of food insecurity. Parents must earn a living wage, have access to the internet, affordable daycare and trusted mentors- whether they are grandparents, church leaders or even counselors and social workers- who can provide guidance and set children on the path to success. Interested citizens can volunteer or donate to the Silverback Society, Each One Save One, or Son of a Saint. All provide excellent mentoring services for young people in need.  

Early childhood education, which is still not widely available for many low income families in New Orleans, must be prioritized to prepare young people to become life-long learners. Kids that are not ready for the rigors of kindergarten often fall behind and never catch up.

They are the ones most likely to drop out of school and land into the hands of gangs and gang violence. Publicly funded recreation programs for youth – both after school and during the summer months – are essential. Schools must be willing to embrace a more holistic approach not just to meet the students “where they are” in their educational needs but to also provide counseling to help resolve issues in the home and personalized tutorial programs for learners who fall behind. 

Not every child is college bound. High schools must nurture a career path by exposing teens to non-college opportunities and job readiness skills. This could include bringing in speakers from various industries and professions, teaching kids how to prepare a resume, complete a job application, and participate in an interview whether in person or online.   

If a young person does enter the criminal justice system, the offender and his or he family must be provided wrap-around services to break the cycle of crime including G.E.D. classes, job readiness and career training. Releasing young people who do not have a new plan for their lives will only lead them to more criminal activities.

Conversely, incarcerated adults must also receive the same education opportunities, counseling, job training and readiness skills prior to release. These individuals also need a continuum of services once back in the community so they can successfully reintegrate into society. Although programs like The First 72+ and Syrita Steib-Martin’s Operation Rescue provide such services, they have limited capacity. More programs and more funding is desperately needed to meet the demand. V.O.T.E has also done an excellent job serving this population.

As the criminal justice system moves toward incarcerating fewer individuals, those who are arrested but not incarcerated must also be offered personalized support and plenty of follow-up.

The business community can play a role by offering more paid internships to high school and college students and by acknowledging formerly incarcerated individuals as valuable employees. They can also supplement police recruiting costs through the Police & Justice Foundation.

Building a larger police force includes stepped-up recruiting and a better pay plan. Until then, re-instituting special units can be effective in addressing hot spots across the city.  

Banks said last night that he was concerned how Detective Briscoe’s two sons would grow up without a father. He was concerned for the family of the people who died last week and the ones that would die next week. The crime problem didn’t get this bad overnight and it won’t be solved overnight. But together, working as a community, we can make progress.       


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