Viewpoint: Proactive policing needed to combat surge in violent crime, MCC says

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Homicides and non-fatal shootings are surging compared with the same time period in 2019. . (Uptown Messenger file photo)

The Metropolitan Crime Commission (MCC), New Orleans’ premier criminal justice watchdog agency, is urging the New Orleans Police Department to refocus on violent offenders during a time when shootings and murders are surging and fewer arrests are being made for violent and weapons felony offenses.

A new MCC analysis shows that there is currently a high community demand for police services. They recommend that the NOPD reinstitute a centralized task force model that allows police to strategically identify and target violent felons who continue to pose a threat to community safety.

“Every violent crime that goes unresolved by arrest fuels the vigilante cycle of retaliatory justice, thereby diminishing public confidence in law enforcement,” said Rafael Goyeneche, MCC president. “The foundation for prosperity is built upon public safety. Our statistics demonstrate the public’s reliance on police and the need to resume proactive policing.”

Since Jan. 1, the NOPD has received an average of over 30,000 calls for service each month.??“The large number of calls received in 2020 indicates that citizen demand for police services has remained high despite the COVID-19 pandemic and recent police protests,” he said.

Homicides and non-fatal shootings are surging compared with the same time period in 2019. There have also been significant reductions in felony arrests in 2020. “Declining arrest rates despite the spike in homicides and shootings suggest a need for the NOPD to strategically target violent gangs,” Goyeneche said. “Every violent gang-related shooting or homicide that does not result in arrest increases the likelihood of retaliatory street violence, which fuels higher crime rates.”

A snapshot of the Orleans Parish jail population confirms that a large majority of inmates are held in custody for felony pretrial offenses, primarily violent or weapons-related charges. Nearly all inmates held on misdemeanors are being held for violent offenses, primarily domestic violence charges.

“When police do make an arrest for a crime of violence, those offenders often remain in custody pending trial,” he concluded. Overall, arrests are down 49% and felony arrest dropped 37% over the past year.

IS THE GOP’S RHETORIC STILL ATTRACTIVE TO WOMEN VOTERS?

Qualifying began yesterday to fill 11 Orleans Parish seats on Louisiana’s Republican State Central Committee (RSCC). By the end of the first day, not one woman had signed up. In a presidential election year when every vote will count, it seems unusual that local Republican women are not being encouraged to seek elected office. Political experts agree that having multiple candidates in the field fuels enthusiasm up and down the ballot for other races.

The special election is being held because of a new state law that allows Republican voters to qualify for positions on their top statewide body regardless of gender. In other words, no seats are designated for Republican women, as is the case on the state’s Democratic Central Committee. In New Orleans and across the state, the majority of parish and state level Republican committee members are males. Men dominate Republican Party leadership at the national level as well.

Are Republican women even aware that qualifying is taking place? Do they think that participating in grassroots politics adds value to their lives? Do they believe they can create meaningful change? Do they care?

The first women elected to the U.S. Congress, in 1916, was a Republican, Jeannette Rankin of Montana. Several hundred Republican women are vying for U.S. House and Senate seats this year. Twenty-two Republican women and 105 women Democrats are now serving in Washington. Three Republican women and six Democratic women are currently governors. While there are more Republican than Democratic women serving in Louisiana’s Legislature, both the state House and Senate are still overwhelmingly Republican and male.

Throughout the years I have attended many Republican political gatherings. Women were always treated with dignity and respect. While their voices are heard, there are few in leadership positions. Many Republican women are encouraged to channel their energies through the GOP’s extensive network of women’s clubs, which can be more social than political.

Over the past three nights, dozens of strong Democratic women, including vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, have taken the microphone to voice their hopes and dreams for America’s future. Polls consistently show that women voters across America — Democratic and Republican, coastal city dwellers, mothers of all ages and even the suburban housewives coveted by President Trump — support the Biden-Harris ticket by as many as 20 percentage points. Women of color are especially on board.

Next week Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who likes to make a historic connection to the Republican women who were active in the suffrage movement, will ride herd over a very different four-day event. While the president will focus on securing his base, it’s also an important opportunity to court disenchanted women. Will President Trump’s often toxic rhetoric bring those voters back into the fold or push them even further away?

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Councilman Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman at-large Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former City Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. She is a member of the Democratic Parish Executive Committee. Columbus can be reached at swampednola@gmail.com.

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