July 12, 2021 6:00am

In short term, at least, more police are key to reducing New Orleans crime, Power Poll says

In long term, poverty, racism, education, health care might be more important

Photo of Drew Broach
New Orleans, LA Correspondent
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New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell will register next week to run for a second term with her job approval at 62% and one big challenge: not another formidable candidate but public fear of crime in a year of unrelenting shootings and carjackings. How should she and other elected officials spend money to make the city safe?

Give more to the Police Department, according to The Times-Picayune Power Poll. Respondents to this week’s survey ranked more officers No. 1 and other police resources No. 3. In between was spending on education. No. 4 was economic development, No. 5 was direct employment, No. 6 recreation and No. 7 “other.”

“More well-trained police officers is key to combating crime and protecting our citizens across the city,” said Ruthie Frierson, founder of Citizens for One Greater New Orleans. “At the time of Katrina, we had 1,600 police officers, today a bit above 1,100.”

“Short-term immediate necessity to combat crime is to hire and train more police officers,” agreed Jefferson Parish School Board member Sandy Denapolis-Bosarge. “With more law enforcement presence on the streets in high-crime areas, this should lower New Orleans’ violent crimes.”

Note that preface: “short term.” More police resources might well help catch people who have already committed crimes, but the broader issue is tamping down the impulse to commit crime in the first place.

“Crime is generally a result of deep poverty fostered by racism. There is no single panacea” said the Rev. Bill Terry, rector of St. Anna’s Episcopal Church near Tremé. “A sweeping systemic plan including economic development, early and robust childhood education and community engagement will over time reduce crime. It will take a substantial long-term investment. Do we have both the moral and economic will?”

Several respondents agreed with Terry.

“Equitable access to a great education, great health care and economic opportunity are critical to our region’s success,” said Michael Williamson, president and CEO of United Way of Southeast Louisiana. “But our current systems and approaches don’t allow for that and are outdated.”

Conducted online Monday 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 a fascinating and non-partisan insight into the thoughts and opinions of those who steer the region. Of 341 Power Poll members surveyed this week, 89 voted for a participation rate of 26%.

Cantrell also is trying to move City Hall. Her preference was into Municipal Auditorium, but opponents seem to have crippled that initiative.

Opponents seem to have crippled Mayor LaToya Cantrell's hopes of moving New Orleans City Hall to Municipal Auditorium. (Photo by Sophia Germer, NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)
Opponents seem to have crippled Mayor LaToya Cantrell's hopes of moving New Orleans City Hall to Municipal Auditorium. (Photo by Sophia Germer, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

More than 60% of Power Poll respondents say City Hall should remain where it is, either with extensive improvements to the exiting building or a new building on same site. A minority favored Municipal Auditorium, New Orleans East or some other site – perhaps the Central Business District?

“City Hall and the adjacent civil courts should be relocated to one or more existing office buildings in the NOLA CBD that have sufficient parking to accommodate visitors and can be renovated at a reasonable cost,” lawyer William Aaron said.

Power Poll respondents split on the advisability of allowing a $325 million casino complex in the Oak Harbor area near Slidell. About one third said the New Orleans would be better off with the casino, about one quarter said worse off and 44% said they were unsure.

A $325 million casino is proposed in the Oak Harbor area near Slidell.
A $325 million casino is proposed in the Oak Harbor area near Slidell.

Power Poll Members: Do you have a friend or colleague who should be on Power Poll? Please invite them to join!

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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