Today, the Times-Picayune looks at murder in New Orleans in 2008.
Some of the statistics are staggering - especially the realization that such a high percentage of the 179 murders last year took place in daylight hours, with an eerie peak on the graph at high noon.
Looking at the first link, though, one sees that the probabilities of being murdered are rather confined to a specific subset of people in the city. If you are black, male, between the ages of 18 and 25, and involved in drugs, you might want to stay inside over the lunch hour.
The numbers tend to back up the general sentiment of detachment that I've gradually discerned from many natives of the city: sure, we have an incredibly high per capita murder rate, but don't really worry too much. Just stay out of the wrong neighborhoods...and, really, look who's getting murdered.
That's true, to some extent, but murder is still a problem. It's a big problem. Tourists, for one, such a lifeblood of the city, are still scarce enough due to lingering (and often incorrect) Katrina devastation conceptions that a mention of high crime can easily sink the prospect of a visit. For those of us who live here, it's really unacceptable to have to live with the constant tinge of fear, to have entire swaths of the city closed off to visiting, living, and even transiting.
On Friday, I headed down with a friend on a little photo expedition of sorts in the 7th Ward around St. Bernard Avenue (one old roommate would've probably yelled at me).
I must say, the decayed surroundings simply aren't conducive to good conduct - burnt out shells of houses, abandoned storefronts blown open and piled high with refuse, vine-covered half-vacant lots, destroyed vehicles, dead trees, boarded over homes, concertina wire atop fences, tarped roofs, roaming animals, third worldish streets. There are some bright spots, but they are woefully few in number.
DA Cannizzarro seems to recognize the problem he faces, but addressing the problem is about more than convictions, more than just the DA and his office. It's about people taking responsibility for their properties, for their neighborhoods, for their political leadership, and for their families. It's about being as brazen in our discussion and confrontation of murder, crime, and blight-ridden neighborhoods as the criminals that are gunning victims down at mid-day.