Photo by Evelynn Coffie
By Evelynn Coffie
Carjackings in New Orleans have increased in the last few months. This can involve losing personal possessions in your car, getting punched in the face, or getting killed.
New Orleans is famous for its lively music, rich cuisine, and historical architecture that often caters to the booming tourist population. But there is also a dark side. Carjackings in New Orleans are not unknown to the city. In recent months, many crimes have been committed by groups of teenagers between the ages of 14-18. According to New Orleans Police Superintendent, Shaun Ferguson, 238 juveniles were arrested in 2019. Most minors have been armed, highly dangerous, and responsible for the violent robberies of adults in the Crescent City. One of the more notorious carjackings in the last few months involved a mother picking her child up from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) in the Marigny.
But what is the city of New Orleans doing to combat these violent crimes?
In May of 2019, Mayor Latoya Cantrell announced plans to curb juvenile crimes by focusing on prevention, intervention, and post-ruling strategies to protect and prevent New Orleans youth from engaging in illegal activities. One of her plans during the summer months included enforcing a curfew for teenagers under 16. If adolescents were found outside of their homes after 9 p.m., the New Orleans Police Department would first attempt to call the child's parent/guardian. If the NOPD could not get in touch with the parent/guardian, they would transport the child to the Covenant House of New Orleans— housing and supportive services for homeless youth.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro released his eight-point plan subsequently after Mayor Cantrell's call to action on juvenile delinquency. His eight-point plan is as follows:
Stepping up NOPD enforcement of the curfew and truancy ordinances already on the books;
Encouraging and allowing juvenile court judges to impose tighter restrictions, including electronic monitoring and detention, upon violent and repeat offense;
Demanding better supervision by parents and guardians, including a possible arrest for violating the existing state law against Improper Supervision of a Minor;
Pushing for a conclusion to the NOPD's federal consent decree, which could free up $11 million per year to reinvest into juvenile crime solutions;
Expanding the capacity of the Youth Study Center and city-proposed rehabilitation programs to meet juvenile offender population demands;
Putting the public safety needs of New Orleans' citizens and visitors ahead of the demands of outside donors and justice reform groups;
Investing equally in the needed expansion of the DA's Juvenile Division staff as the city has in funding juvenile public defenders and the proposed evening reporting center;
Requesting additional manpower from the Louisiana State Police to help quell juvenile crime during the summer months.
The New Orleans city council endured the backlash from concerned parents who protested the city's "punitive punishment." Journalist Michael Isaac Stein from TheLensNola covered a protest in June of 2019 where parents called out Mayor Cantrell's holding facilities or housing programs for minors. They believed her efforts to curb physical and sexual assaults in these facilities were inadequate. There is also the threat of juveniles being charged as adults. Vehicular burglaries are one of the most prominent crimes that New Orleans adolescents commit, by which a majority of carjackings and robberies occur past the curfew.
I spoke with a range of New Orleanianns around town to get a sense of the scope of the issue, asking both about carjacking and car burglaries. Adrianna, a University of New Orleans student, has never had an issue with carjackings in the New Orleans area. "My car has never been robbed. It's old, so nobody would want to break into it anyway."
Pierre, a New Orleans resident, once had his car robbed because it looked similar to another person's vehicle. "They thought it was somebody else's car,” Pierre stated. “I didn't have anything in there.”
During the holiday seasons, New Orleans residents are more likely to be in a rush to shop for the latest items and forget to lock their cars or hide their personal belongings. Neglecting mundane duties like this could lead to car burglaries and carjackings. To ensure safety and security, people must remember to lock their doors, protect their belongings, and check their surroundings before getting out of their cars.