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Despite fewer murders, N.O. still among Top 5 deadliest U.S. cities

LOUISIANA WEEKLY — Despite closing out 2018 with 145 homicides, the lowest murder total in nearly five decades, New Orleans remains one of the nation’s Top 5 deadliest cities

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By The Louisiana Weekly

Despite closing out 2018 with 145 homicides, the lowest murder total in nearly five decades, New Orleans remains one of the nation’s Top 5 deadliest cities.

Late last month, NOPD Supt. Michael Harrison attributed the drop in violent crime to the use of a Real Time Crime Center that utilizes a network of surveillance cameras across the city, the NOPD’s TIGER program which targets repeat violent offenders and improved police-community relations.

LSU criminologist Dr. Peter Sharf told FOX 8 News that crime cameras and stability in police hierarchy deserve credit for a historic low when it came to murders in 2018.

However he says the city still has a long way to go.

The year 2018 was a year that started out on the wrong foot when it came to murders.

“Much of the carnage this year was in the first two months, and it’s gone down consistently,” said LSU Health criminologist, Peter Scharf, PhD.

For example, Mardi Gras day in February, four people were killed in three separate shootings, Uptown, in the CBD and in Treme, and some were predicting a violent year.

That didn’t happen, and the city’s chronic murder problem settled down.

New Orleans finished out 2018 with 145 murders, a 47-year low, with the murder of Marla Belin, one of the last, and the arrest of Tyrone Fountain last night.

Dr. Scharf says the increased use of crime cameras and technology deserves much of the credit for the overall drop in murders.

“My suspicion in the short term is the cameras, and pro active patrol, the public health things will take a longer time to develop,” said Scharf.

Scharf also credits stability in NOPD leadership, and superintendent Michael Harrison.

“Absolutely, Michael like all of us had a mixed reputation, he’s built a good team, and has a sound strategy,” said Scharf.

Scharf says murders are down nationally, and he cautions, though the trends are good in New Orleans, it is still one of the most violent cities in the country.

“When you look at murder in 2018, New York is 3.5 per 100,000, we’re at 36 or 37, so we’re 10 times more dangerous for violent crime than New York,” said Scharf.

Dr. Scharf says the city has all but abandoned its old goal of 1,600 police officers.

He said crime cameras, and more “intelligent” policing are helping to achieve crime reductions at lower troop strength.

Despite the significant drop in homicides, an analyst notes that the murder rate remains among the nation’s highest.

The 145 homicides in the city in 2018 marked the lowest total since 116 in 1971. It also marked the second drop in a row: from 174 in 2016 to 157 in 2017 and 145 last year.

The murder rate is about 37 per 100,000 residents. That’s at best fourth-highest and might be No. 3, crime analyst and City Council consultant Jeff Asher told The New Orleans Advocate. St. Louis and Baltimore have the highest rates, and either Detroit and New Orleans will be next, he said.

It would take a further significant reduction for New Orleans to drop to No. 5, he said.

New Orleans’ murder rate has been flat for four years, Scharf told WVUE-TV.

“I think we need to try some of these new initiatives, public health approaches and see if we can get it so that New Orleans is kind of like other cities in the United States, it’s not now,” Scharf said. “So the question is, you have pockets of extreme at-risk kids who are armed and they’re in the drug culture – how do you intervene effectively with those kids way prior to anybody shooting anybody?”

New Orleans’ 47-year low in murders was accompanied by a drop of about 28 percent in the number of non-deadly shooting incidents from 2017, the newspaper reported. Armed robberies fell for the third year in a row, and the number of carjackings came down as well in 2018, according to statistics kept by the New Orleans City Council’s Criminal Justice Committee.

Asher said police work could be part of the reasons, but other factors are almost certainly at play.

Violent crime is trending downward nationally, and communities frequently see cooler periods in the wake of a spike in violence, which New Orleans endured when there were about two shootings daily for a year beginning in the middle of 2016.

“We don’t necessarily know what the drivers of gun violence (rates) are from day to day, month to month, or year to year,” Asher said. “More than likely, it’s not a single explanation, but it would be logical to say one of those things could be enforcement.”

Asher also noted that while 2018 saw the fewest murders in New Orleans since 1971, the city had a lower murder rate in 1985, when there were 152 slayings and more than 500,000 residents.

Harrison, who always points out that even a single murder is too many, concedes that plenty of work remains to be done.

But he said he’s optimistic. For one thing, he said, his agency is closing in on substantial compliance with a 492-point federally mandated consent decree aimed at bringing the department up to federal standards for constitutional policing that has improved performance, most notably by slashing the rate at which its 1,200 officers resort to force.

Implementation of the NOPD consent decree began in August 2013.

“The whole city needs to know it was the 1,200 officers who executed (the strategies) and willingly transformed” the agency, Harrison said. “They should recognize it’s the officers who made the culture change, and I’m honored it’s under my leadership.”

This article originally appeared in the Louisiana Weekly

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Activism

Following More Mass Shootings Democrats Introduce Assault Weapons Ban

On January 22, a gunman opened fire on a crowd celebrating the Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California, killing 11 and wounding 9. The Democrats’ proposed Age 21 Act would make it illegal to sell or buy an assault weapon to anybody under 21, bringing it in line with the legal age for purchasing handguns. President Joe Biden has publicly stated his support for the legislation.

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The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans
The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans.

By Stacy M. Brown,NNPA Newswire

Two proposals aimed at curbing the spread of assault rifles were submitted today by Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein of California, and Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

The Assault Weapons Ban seeks to prohibit the commercialization, distribution, production, and importation of assault rifles and other firearms designed for use in military operations, as well as high-capacity magazines and similar devices.

On January 22, a gunman opened fire on a crowd celebrating the Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California, killing 11 and wounding 9.

The Democrats’ proposed Age 21 Act would make it illegal to sell or buy an assault weapon to anybody under 21, bringing it in line with the legal age for purchasing handguns.

President Joe Biden has publicly stated his support for the legislation.

Biden said that the number of mass shootings declined during the decade that the Assault Weapons Ban was in effect.

“In the 10 years that the Assault Weapons Ban was on the books, mass shootings went down,” Biden remarked.

“After Republicans let the law expire in 2004 and those weapons were allowed to be sold again, mass shootings tripled,” he declared.

Both houses of Congress were urged to take quick action by the president.

According to Biden, “the majority of American people agree with this rational measure.”

“There can be no greater responsibility than to do all we can to ensure the safety of our children, our communities and our nation,” he insisted.

In the House of Representatives, Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline said he plans to introduce a companion bill to the Senate’s Assault Weapons Ban.

Feinstein said assault rifles “seem to be the unifying denominator in the seemingly endless number of horrific shootings.”

“Because these firearms were created for maximum efficiency in mass murder,” the senator noted.

“They have no place in our society or educational institutions. It’s time to take a stand against the gun lobby and do something about getting these lethal weapons off the streets, or at the absolute least, out of the hands of our youth.”

Blumenthal added, as the gunman at the Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park demonstrated just days ago, assault weapons are designed for one and one purpose only: to murder or hurt human beings.

“These military-style combat weapons – built for the battlefield and designed to maximize death and destruction – have brought bloodshed and carnage to our streets and continue to be the weapon of choice in countless mass shootings,” Blumenthal said.

“Guns don’t respect state boundaries, which is why we need a national solution to restricting the ownership and use of assault weapons. Now is the time to honor gun violence victims and survivors with this commonsense action.”

Rep. Ciciline argued that it is long past due to reinstate an assault weapon ban and remove these “weapons of war” from civilian areas.

The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans,” Ciciline noted.

“We need to come together to enact this commonsense, effective, and proven policy to reduce gun violence and save lives. I thank Senator Feinstein for her partnership in this fight and look forward to introducing the House companion bill in the coming weeks.”

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Activism

Probationers Share Tales of Reconciliation

Once a year, an emotional celebration is held for those who come to a similar realization and make it on the Wall of Change, selected by a committee for providing the department’s most inspirational success stories of the year. The Wall of Change stories and photos include a first-person account from the honoree and words from their assigned probation coach. The annual ceremony also shows appreciation for the Probation officers and other supporters who sometimes find themselves as the only people who believe in their ability to succeed.

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(from left) Marin County Superior Court Judge Paul Haakenson, Wall of Change honoree James Mayberry, and Marin County Probation Chief Marlon Washington at the Wall of Change ceremony.
(from left) Marin County Superior Court Judge Paul Haakenson, Wall of Change honoree James Mayberry, and Marin County Probation Chief Marlon Washington at the Wall of Change ceremony.

Marin Probation’s inspiring ‘Wall of Change’ newcomers honored at special event

San Rafael, CA – James Mayberry’s painful childhood and young adult years were the start of a long path toward healing and his second chance at life.

He was a young boy when he witnessed his mother’s death at the hands of his father. James was quickly separated from his siblings — they settled with relatives, and he entered the foster care system. Depressed and traumatized, his teen years became overpowered by his alcoholism, and soon after began his period of lawbreaking. By his late 20s, Mayberry was separated from his job, his house, his car, and most importantly, his kids and “everyone I loved.”

A domestic violence charge in Marin County forced him to a relationship with the Marin County Probation Department, where for almost three years he struggled to commit to get sober and turn his life around.

Mayberry, now 31, did commit. He was one of 14 people honored Jan. 18 at the Marin County Civic Center’s Board of Supervisors chamber for accepting renewed responsibilities and becoming a positive role model for others. The group are among the newest probationers honored on the Wall of Change, where personal stories of their transformation are documented in the department’s lobby for all probationers to see. The event opened with a short documentary film about the honorees created by Vincent Cortez of Mitchell Street Pictures.

In addition to Mayberry, the 2022 honorees were Deann Ashley, Hannah Cahoon, Kimberly Clayton, Abdalla “Jimmy” Khaled Sayed, Samuel Lawrence, Cody Lewis, Matthew McCarthy, Gabino Mendoza, Hengly Osiel-Calderon, Fletcher Pinkham, Justin Sheets, Tino Wilson Jr., and Nordia Valdivia-Rodriguez. All of them have powerful stories to tell.

In a statement to the Wall of Change committee, Mayberry wrote that his struggles were rooted in the death of his mother.

“At such a young age I was left to navigate my grief and pain alone, then eventually I became numb to my own emotions,” he wrote. “All I knew was pain, and the thought of happiness was far from my reach. I felt like I had no one to go to even though I knew I had people who knew my situation and loved me, but I didn’t want to be a burden to them.”

Heather Donoho, a senior deputy probation officer assigned to Mayberry’s case, said Mayberry once blew one of the highest blood-alcohol measurements she had ever seen during a compliance check. She said he was testing positive for alcohol use — a violation of probation terms — twice a week on a regular basis.

“We had a serious conversation,” Donoho said. “I was prepared to recommend that he go to jail for a year. Then I found that James had never been offered an addiction treatment program, a recovery coach, or medication and counseling to help him with his trauma. He deserved a shot.”

As those recovery tools became available, Mayberry stopped testing positive for alcohol and stopped missing scheduled appointments. Today, he is sober and no longer homeless. He has a good job walking distance from his home, he helps others in the recovery community, he has reconnected with his childhood church family, and his four kids are back in his life.

“His willingness to work with me changed drastically for the better,” Donoho said. “It sounds cliché, but he’s a good reminder of why I went into this field. Unfortunately, there are so many negative situations we deal with as probation officers, but when you get a chance to work with somebody like James, it’s incredibly rewarding.”

“One day,” Mayberry wrote, “I just decided to be honest with myself and tell the truth because I could not continue living the way I was living.”

Once a year, an emotional celebration is held for those who come to a similar realization and make it on the Wall of Change, selected by a committee for providing the department’s most inspirational success stories of the year. The Wall of Change stories and photos include a first-person account from the honoree and words from their assigned probation coach. The annual ceremony also shows appreciation for the Probation officers and other supporters who sometimes find themselves as the only people who believe in their ability to succeed.

The in-person ceremony was hosted by Marin County Probation Chief Marlon Washington and his staff. Terry Wright, the Probation Department’s Adult Division Director, served as the emcee. Dr. Todd Schirmer, the County’s Director of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, delivered the keynote speech.

For Mayberry and many other Wall of Change honorees, it’s not just the Probation staff that proves vital to their transformation but also trusted workers from law enforcement agencies, the judges of Marin County Superior Court, the Public Defender’s Office, detoxification centers, supportive nonprofits, social workers, and others. Several recovery coaches and counselors who played critical roles in supporting the honorees attended the Wall of Change ceremony.

Mayberry is finally getting used to hearing that friends and family are proud of him.

“I’m truly blessed to have a second chance at life with all the help and support system that has been given to me,” he wrote. “I also want to help someone else who may be going through the same thing that I have experienced. There is hope in every situation, good or bad, but you have to believe within yourself and have faith that all things will work out for the good once you start making changes for yourself.”

Learn more about Marin County Probation online.

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#NNPA BlackPress

Big U.S. Cities Fail to Provide Data for New FBI Hate Crimes Report

“The Justice Department is committed to prioritizing prevention, investigation, and prosecution of hate crimes,” Associate U.S. Attorney General Vanita Gupta stated. “The FBI’s 2021 Hate Crimes Statistics are a reminder of the need to continue our vigorous efforts to address this pervasive issue in America.”

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According to the report, more than 7,000 single-bias incidents were recorded involving more than 8,700 victims.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Critics immediately threw cold water on a new FBI 2021 Hate Crime Statistics Act Report released by U.S. Department of Justice officials on Monday, Dec. 12.

Margaret Huang, the president, and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said while underreporting of hate crimes to the FBI remains an ongoing problem, the failure of state and local jurisdictions to report data makes the new report worse.

Over one-third of the nation’s 18,000 federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies failed to report data to the FBI.

In 2020, the number of agencies reporting was 3,300 fewer than in 2021.

The latest reporting year counted as the first in which the FBI required every agency to report all crimes, including hate crimes, through its National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

Huang said that even though the FBI provided technical assistance and funding for its new requirement, many jurisdictions were unable or unwilling to report through the new system.

She said the result is dramatically incomplete.

It needs more data from major population centers, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix, and the entire states of Florida and California.

“While the FBI’s annual Hate Crime report has been the nation’s best available snapshot of hate violence in America, this year’s data is woefully incomplete, inaccurate, and simply cannot be trusted – certainly not to compare to previous years. Victims and communities affected by hate crimes deserve better,” Huang asserted.

“The failure of thousands of police agencies across the country to participate in this report is devastating for the individuals and communities harmed by these crimes and our ability to understand and prevent them,” she said.

Huang added that accurate, comprehensive national data is integral to addressing the root causes, designing prevention strategies, and providing support to victims and communities.

“There may be a temptation to draw conclusions from this woefully incomplete and flawed report about the rate of reported hate crimes, especially those targeting Black and AAPI communities, Sikhs, and LGBTQ people,” Huang continued.

“But comparing this piecemeal national data to previous years would be wrong. This first NIBRS reporting year data is simply too unreliable.

“We cannot outlaw hate, but we can do more to support victims of hate violence by ensuring they are heard and to confront the problem by measuring it accurately.

“As the transition to NIBRS continues, SPLC and our coalition partners will be urging the Justice Department and FBI to focus attention and resources on community-based prevention and response strategies.

“And, until legislation requiring hate crime reporting can be enacted, federal funds to law enforcement agencies should be conditioned on credible HCSA reporting, or meaningful community hate crime prevention and awareness initiatives. We can and must do better.”

The latest report found more than 7,000 hate crimes committed in 2021.

The FBI defines a hate crime as a “committed criminal offense which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias(es) against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

Ted Deutch, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, called the report “woefully inadequate.”

He said 35 major U.S. cities failed to report hate crimes in 2021, while the country’s two largest cities, New York, and Los Angeles, did not provide data.

The third-largest, Chicago, reported zero, according to the FBI’s report.

According to the report, more than 7,000 single-bias incidents were recorded involving more than 8,700 victims.

Sixty-five percent of victims were targeted because of the offender’s race, ethnicity, or ancestry bias; 16% occurred because of prejudice against the individual’s sexual orientation; 13% was religious bias; 4% gender identity; 2% disability; 1% gender bias.

The report further found 188 multiple-bias hate crime incidents involving 271 victims, and more than 5,700 hate offenses were classified as against persons, with 44% intimation, 36% simple assault, and 18% aggravated assault.

Officials classified nine murders and 13 rapes as hate crimes.

The statistics revealed that nearly 56% of the offenders were white, and about 21% were African American.

Since January 2021, the United States Department of Justice said it had taken several actions in response to a rise in hate crimes and incidents.

Some of these actions include aggressively investigating and prosecuting hate crimes as the department charged more than 60 defendants in over 55 different cases and secured more than 55 convictions.

DOJ also designated a Deputy Associate Attorney General as the first-ever Anti-Hate Crimes Resources Coordinator, and announced that all 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices would host a United Against Hate program over the next year to help improve the reporting of hate crimes by teaching community members how to identify, report and help prevent hate crimes, and to provide an opportunity for trust-building between law enforcement and communities.

“The Justice Department is committed to prioritizing prevention, investigation, and prosecution of hate crimes,” Associate U.S. Attorney General Vanita Gupta stated.

“The FBI’s 2021 Hate Crimes Statistics are a reminder of the need to continue our vigorous efforts to address this pervasive issue in America.”

Gupta added that the Justice Department continues to work with the nation’s law enforcement agencies to increase the reporting of hate crime statistics to the FBI to ensure they have the data to help accurately identify and prevent hate crimes.

“No one in this country should be forced to live their life in fear of being attacked because of what they look like, whom they love, or where they worship,” Gupta insisted.

“The department will continue using all the tools and resources at our disposal to stand up to bias-motivated violence in our communities.”

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