Meanwhile, the New Orleans City Council has announced plans for a special meeting on Jan. 18 to addressing rising crime.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell today (Jan. 11) announced both the commander and members of a Violent Crime Reduction Task Force that she says will be laser-focused on making New Orleana safer by getting the most violent criminals off of the city’s streets. She also named Orleans Parish Communication District (OPCD) Executive Director Tyrell Morris as the head of the new Task Force.
While Mayor Cantrell noted that New Orleans ended 2022 with 265 murders, the highest number of homicides since before Hurricane Katrina, she also added context, by reminding that New Orleans is not alone in this trend.
Large cities across the nation have been experiencing similar upticks in violent crime. In fact, when the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA), a professional organization of police executives representing the largest cities in the United States and Canada, compared pre-pandemic numbers with the first six months of 2022, it found that MCCA member cities experienced a 50 percent increase in homicides and a roughly 36 percent increase in aggravated assaults,’’ according to a statement released by the group last fall.
“In 2022, major cities across the country, including New Orleans, experienced a spike in violent crime, as well as a reduction in available law enforcement providers,” Mayor Cantrell. “So far, 2023 has already been met with a significant increase in violent crime, and now with the proper resources at our disposal, I cannot think of a better moment to establish this task force. This group will be laser focused on preventing violent crime in our city, as well as assisting enforcement partners to remove the most violent offenders from our streets. By embedding ourselves within the community and bringing all stakeholders together in a more unified, collaborative and holistic manner, this will ultimately lead to a reduction in violent crime across our city and improve the overall quality of life for our residents and visitors.”
Mayor Cantrell said the Task Force will employ a “war room” approach, similar to the manner in which her administration tackled the COVID-19 pandemic, meeting daily and using data to guide decision-making. She says that while the Task Force will regularly examine data and assess the effectiveness of its efforts, it will provide its first progress report to the public at the 60-day mark.
“The Task Force will be engaged every hour of every day,” Mayor Cantrell said. “This is about taking action. It’s not about words; it’s about doing the job.”
A certified public safety executive, Morris says he is ready for the job. He has served as the Communications District Director since 2018, after Cantrell fired former director Stephen Gordon. Before his promotion to executive director, Morris oversaw operations at the city’s 911 Call Center.
“The executive action taken today by Mayor Cantrell is a bold and strong move in our quest to curb the current trends,” he said during the Mayor’s press conference. “This task force will spare no resource or opportunity to bring any criminal offenders to justice. New Orleans is a phenomenal city with a bright future, and we will not allow heinous acts of violent crime derail our collective progress and prosperity as a community.”
According to the Mayor, the Violent Crime Task Force’s priorities will include:
- Preventing of acts of violence by embedding themselves in the community and orchestrating a “full government response” to detect, deter and intervene before an act of violence happens;
- Assisting Interim NOPD Supt. Michelle Woodfork, NOPD officers and all other law enforcement partners in apprehending violent offenders;
- Ensuring that comprehensive wraparound services are applied to achieve results
Not to be outdone, shortly after the Mayor’s presser to discuss the Task Force, City Councilman-at-large JP Morrell announced that the New Orleans City Council will hold a special meeting tentatively set for 9 a.m. Jan. 18, to discuss rising crime rates. Councilman-at-large JP Morrell announced plans for the meeting in a press release that also stated that members of the City Council have been “working on legislation and ideas to address the continuing crisis of crime in New Orleans.”
The purpose of Jan. 18 meeting is to present to those new initiatives and ideas to the public, according to the press release. It seems the Council will use the meeting to push for a national search for the the next NOPD superintendent.
Morrell said, “Ordinances will be discussed and then assigned to committees for public review and comment. Furthermore, we will also take this opportunity to receive updates from the Cantrell Administration in regard to the national search for a new Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, as well as public engagement of the new task force introduced by Mayor Cantrell and the initiatives they intend to propose.”
Other members of the City Council released statements regarding crime as part of the Morrell’s press release.
“Crime and public safety demand urgency,” said Councilman Joe Giarrusso. “This is going to require marshaling all resources inside and outside NOPD to address short, mid, and long-term solutions. The Council has funded more money for root causes and for immediate public safety concerns. The public needs to see the results of that spending.”
Councilman Oliver Thomas said, “I look forward to the collaboration with the various stakeholders to discuss additional initiatives to address the increase in crime. As I have always stated we must take a proactive and aggressive approach in preventing crime in our community.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Cantrell also announced the other members of the Violent Crime Reduction Task Force, including:
Other members of the Violent Crime Reduction Taskforce include:
- Commissioner Tenisha Stevens, Office of Criminal Justice Coordination
- Interim Superintendent Woodfork, NOPD
- Consulting Chief of Operations Fausto Pichardo, NOPD
- Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno, New Orleans Health Department
- Director Patrick Young, Mayor’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention
- Director John Thomas, Public Safety and Homeland Security
- Deputy CAO Thomas Mulligan, Office of Business and External Services
- Director Asya Howlette, Mayor’s Office of Youth and Families
- Director Gregory Joseph, Mayor’s Office of Communications
- District Attorney Jason Williams, Orleans Parish
- Chief Judge Robin Pittman, Orleans Parish Criminal District Court
- Chief Judge Ranord Darensburg, Orleans Parish Juvenile Court