Crime’s ‘Tipping Point’

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“This summer will be the ‘tipping point’ for crime in post-Katrina New Orleans,” says crime expert Peter Scharf

, who starts work as a research professor of public health at Tulane University on June 1. Scharf says there is little doubt that the city’s crime-fighting strategy is failing to stem violent crime. Crime cameras have not been installed — or don’t work — and NOPD’s “community policing” initiative has “languished.” After the recent retirement of local FBI Special Agent in Charge James Bernazzani, Scharf says, citizens wonder if city leaders and law enforcement have what it takes to reverse crime trends. The professor dismisses calls to retain 300 Louisiana National Guard troops, saying there is little evidence the Guard has helped curtail the murder rate. “The National Guard has become a substitute for thinking clearly about the violent crime solution,” Scharf says. He calls for a “coherent” citywide plan involving housing, education, early childhood intervention and policing strategies. Otherwise, he says, “We will need an occupying army to maintain order.” Scharf also says Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent mental health crisis do not adequately explain the persistent violence. - Allen Johnson

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