Cries For Help

Jan 26, 2011 by

Last Tuesday was the heavily promoted crime meeting featuring Chief Ronal Serpas and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro telling us all what each has accomplished in their terms and what work still needs to be done in the area of criminal justice.

I expected the usual brave faces and braver words coming from these two, among them Cannizzaro’s chagrin at jurors being unable to believe NOPD officers when they take the stand in court, his constant urgings to witnesses to come forward, and his suggestion that everyone in attendance volunteer for jury duty to help do something about crime in this city.  Serpas mentioned having been at a lunch earlier in the day with Sheriff Marlin Gusman “celebrating the great work of (Gusman’s) employees”, directly addressed the problems of the escalating murder rates by discussing four commonalities in most of the murders committed in this city, and concluded his preliminary comments by saying that, murders aside, “you’d be surprised how (other communities close by) are faring a tad bit worse.”

This isn’t other communities we’re in, though, this is New Orleans, and the community of New Orleans is in serious hurt.

The questions and comments after the D.A.’s and the chief’s comments were the reality behind the hope.  What shreds of hope there are are being eviscerated by more than just the crimes and the horrible NOPD responses thus far (Serpas on the NOPD officers’ tendency to behave just as badly towards the victims of crime as they do towards the criminals: “Our department committed a tremendous insult on this community.”).  There were pleas to bring back Officer Friendly programs to the schools, but then the anger people were seeing in the young was discussed – the effects of seeing one’s family members victimized by crime are not being dealt with well when the social services are being cut.   The question of social services’ service to those who had been previously incarcerated and were getting it together also came up – how can people get re-integrated into society after serving their time?  One victim who’d been attending crime forums since 1990 said there had been no one involved with the city’s economic development at the forums all the way up to Tuesday night’s meeting – where were these people?  There were complaints that the Witness Protection Program Cannizzaro touted in his remarks didn’t work.  There were complaints about juvenile law being unjust in dealing with the victims of juveniles’ very adult crimes.  The chief and the D.A. had to constantly remind everyone that their positions were largely reactive and didn’t encompass many social services or even the upbringing of the community’s young.

In the face of Alvin Crosby‘s mother’s grief, however, the authorities and the audience could only listen.

It’s been over five months for her.  She can’t forget, and she doesn’t want the police to forget, either – that there was a videotape of her son going to his car outside the club in St. Roch, and yet it is of no help in ID -ing the killer.  She called for anybody to come forward and identify who did it.

“Help me. Help my family.”

Cynics may deride these people as constant attendees who take too much advantage of these opportunities to have attention paid to their pain.  I don’t doubt that some of them are there for that.  A mother’s searing pain at not seeing justice done in the case of her son’s senseless murder, however? It cuts like a scythe through all the cynicism and shows us all how much further we have to go to heal all that ails us as a community.

The problems are indeed larger than what law enforcement can take on all by itself, but we desperately need them to be solved….in our schools, in our streets, in our economic health and woes, in our homes.

Help us all.


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