February 7, 2022 6:00am

Fighting crime is LaToya Cantrell's job, but how is another question, Power Poll members say

New Orleans mayor seen as primarily responsible for public safety, moreso than DA, judges, City Council

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New Orleans, LA Correspondent
 
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Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the Police Department bear primary responsibility for reducing crime in New Orleans, according to The Times-Picayune Power Poll, although respondents split on the most important change that the mayor and police can make to succeed.

More than three quarters of respondents in this week's survey put the burden on Cantrell and the police, followed, in order, by District Attorney Jason Williams, judges and courts and, finally, the City Council.

But when asked the most important thing Cantrell can do, none of the six options garnered as much as one third of the vote.

The results of that question illustrate the difficulty of combating crime, especially in an urgent period that calls for quick solutions. It's one thing to arrest and prosecute offenders, however, but it's another to make systemic changes that will reduce the crime rate itself.

Clearly, however, residents are alarmed.

"We have surpassed the tipping point with the criminal acts that have touched every neighborhood and every citizen," said Mark Romig, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at New Orleans & Co., the convention and visitors promoter. "I remember clearly the [1996] murders at [Louisiana] Pizza Kitchen. It regretfully took that horrific incident to get some action - which actually saw improvements. I fear we are beyond this at this moment."

Some survey respondents offered clear, blunt solutions:

  • "LaToya needs to hire many more officers, work collaboratively with the FBI, Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office and Louisiana State Police and publicly shame Jason Williams and judges into doing their jobs," said former City Council member Stacy Head.
  • "Recruit and retain more police officers. The department should have at least 1,600 officers to adequately police the city," said Judge Kern Reese of the Civil District Court.
  • "End the consent decree for NOPD. Federal judges should not run a city agency," said John Georges, co-owner of The Times-Picayune. "Let the police chief and mayor run their own agencies."

Others took a longer, more complex view:

  • "In the whole of human history, in all of our courses of investigation and study, the only things that reduce violent crime are poverty alleviation or extreme oppression," said Asali Ecclesiastes, CEO of the Ashé Cultural Arts Center. "Which will we choose? Hint: The oppression ain't working out so good so far."
  • "If the approach to public safety focuses on arrests and policing, you've already lost the fight," said Rashida Govan, executive director of the New Orleans Youth Alliance. "The city has to deal with root causes of the issues. You will never be able to arrest yourself out of the problem. If bullets don't deter folks from a life of crime, then neither will the presence of police."

Conducted online Tuesday through Thursday, The Times-Picayune Power Poll survey is not a scientific inquiry. But because it asks questions of the top Jefferson and Orleans parish influencers in business, politics, arts, media, nonprofits and community affairs, it does afford fascinating, non-partisan insight into the thoughts and opinions of those who steer the region. Of 348 Power Poll members surveyed this week, 101 voted, for a participation rate of 29%.

Turning to a lighter issue, but one also closely followed, the overwhelming consensus is that Sean Payton won't stay away from football for long. More than half of Power Poll espondents see the former New Orleans Saints head coach as a television sports announcer or commentator a year from now. More than a third see him coaching another NFL team, and very few see him just chilling.

One other idea came from Byron LeBlanc, president of LeBlanc & Schuster public relations: "You did not include coaching his son's football team. After the "Home Team" movie, he may find that more intriguing. Another one of his unpredictable calls."

Whom should the Saints hire to succeed Payton? Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is the heavy favorite:

And now that we have Mardi Gras season parades for the first time in two years, Power Poll members seem generally ready hit the streets, despite the lingering pandemic:

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