Location: the bloody
Crime rate, inept pols leveled New Orleans
before the storm
Let's take a break from the joy of
Bush bashing to reveal the dirty little secret of New Orleans:
Its local government deserves an F for its planning and
response to Katrina. And one other thing: The New Orleans
police force would be a joke if it weren't a disgrace.
Yes, I know it's impolitic to say such things while
the suffering in the Big Easy is fresh and many cops risked
their lives to save others. But now is the time to blow the
whistle on the story line being repeated by rote across
America: That the federal government ignored New Orleans
because most of its residents are black and poor.
narrative has all the accuracy of a historic novel: it takes
two undisputed facts - the feds were slow and New Orleans is
largely black and poor - and weaves in pure fiction to make
the desired link.
The charge of racism-inspired
foot-dragging isn't just nonsense. It's pernicious nonsense,
as in destructive and malicious. You know that's a fact
because loony Howard Dean, the Democratic Party boss, is now
peddling it. He's joined by Jesse Jackson, who said the
squalor in New Orleans "looks like the hull of a slave ship."
If even a smidgen of the racism charges
are true, President Bush should be shot. But before we give
him his blindfold, let's look at New Orleans before Katrina.
Start with crime. That looters ran unchecked after the
hurricane isn't surprising when you consider that criminals
have had the run of the city for years.
It is a
perennial contender for Murder Capital. The 264 homicides last
year were a drop of only 11 from 2003 - and the first decline
in five years.
New Orleans, with fewer than 500,000
people, had almost half the murders of New York, which had 570
homicides last year in a city of more than 8 million. Put
another way, if New York had New Orleans' murder rate, we
would have more than 4,200 murders a year.
New Orleans police are hardly the Finest was proven by a
shocking report yesterday: Nearly a third of New Orleans cops
- some 500 of the 1,600 - are now unaccounted for. The
department says some quit, but it doesn't know where most of
The top cop, Eddie Compass, has responded by
offering all officers paid vacations to Las Vegas and Atlanta.
Yes, that's right - he is pulling all cops off the street,
even while bodies lie in the open. Never in New York.
Then there's Mayor Ray Nagin, a Democrat, who has
blamed everybody but himself. Maybe he has forgotten his plans
for dealing with Katrina.
Last July, his office
prepared DVDs warning that, if the city ever had to be
evacuated, residents were on their own. According toa July 24
article in The Times-Picayune (spotted by the Web's Drudge
Report), "Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director
Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive
home the word that the city does not have the resources to
move out of harm's way an estimated 134,000 people without
"You're responsible for your safety,
and you should be responsible for the person next to you," one
official said of the message.
And how's this for
preparation? Cops were told not to work on the day Katrina
hit, one officer told The New York Times, but "to come in the
next day, to save money on their budget."
means, let's investigate what went wrong in New Orleans. Let's
start in City Hall.