New Orleans leaders ask for National Guard
6/19/2006, 11:12 a.m. CT
By CAIN BURDEAU The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Mayor Ray Nagin asked the governor on Monday to deploy up to 300 National Guard troops and 60 state police officers to patrol the city following a violent weekend in which five people were shot to death.
City leaders convened a special meeting to voice outrage that five teenagers were killed Saturday in an area near the central business district.
"If we don't have wind knocking us down, we have shooters knocking us down, and that's unacceptable," said City Council President Oliver Thomas.
The slayings — plus a fatal stabbing Sunday night in an argument about beer — brought this year's murder toll to 53, raising fears that violence was back on the rise in a city plagued by violent crime before Hurricane Katrina drove residents away last year.
Crime has been creeping up since then: 17 killings in the first three months of 2006, but 36 since the start of April.
Saturday's incident was one of the bloodiest in this city's turbulent history. The last killing with that many victims was in 1995.
In addition to requesting help from the state, the City Council said it would consider increasing overtime available for police and pay for more officers and street patrols.
Council members also called for a "crime summit" within two weeks.
"We have to deal with it now," Councilman Arnold Fielkow said. "If we don't make people feel safe in their homes, nothing will happen. Let's make this priority Number One."
Cynthia Willard-Lewis, who represents predominantly black eastern New Orleans, said a big part of the solution will be getting young people off the streets and into caring environments such as schools.
She called for opening schools after hours. "Let's make them havens of protection and enrichment," she said. She did not say how that would have averted Saturday's 4 a.m. shooting, which police have said apparently was either prompted by revenge or drugs.
"We're looking forward to the day when ... this city returns to being one of the safest cities in America," Nagin said.
Mayor, Council call for National Guard troops
Frustrated with the recent spate of violent killings in New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin and the City Council on Monday said they have asked the governor to deploy up to 300 National Guard troops and 60 state police officers to assist New Orleans police officers in patrolling the city.
The mayor and Council also said they plan to reinstitute a curfew for the city�s youth, from 11 p.m. or midnight until dawn, despite some concerns over how the city will house violators overnight. The Council will also hold a crime summit in the next two weeks.
The announcements came at a special meeting called to explore ways to combat violent crime, just days after five teens were found murdered in Central City. Government officials said they are �drawing a line in the sand,� and will take all action necessary to control the crime wave that has gripped the city in the last three months.
Fifty three people have been murdered in New Orleans this year, thirty-six of those since April.
While officials said they have secured a commitment from the State Police for 60 officers, it is unclear whether National Guard troops can be called into service for foot patrols almost 10 months after Hurricane Katrina. Officials said the governor supports the idea, but is investigating whether she can make it happen.
If troops are available, city officials said they would like to see the National Guard patrol the largely devastated areas to prevent looting. That would free up city and state police officers to patrol the city's violent crime hot spots. NOPD presently employs 1,486 officers, including 110 currently in leave or out sick. The current figure is down from 1,700 before the storm.