Operation Force sounds like an explosion-filled Arnold Schwarzenegger comeback vehicle, but it's the New Orleans Police Department's (NOPD) latest crime deterrent — and one Police Chief Ronal Serpas says is working.
On Aug. 16, NOPD announced its officers had begun hitting the streets to knock on more than 10,000 doors in neighborhoods across the city to speak with hundreds of residents about better protecting themselves and their homes. The program and its officer overtime are backed by $77,000 provided by the criminal justice nonprofit New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, and NOPD matched that funding for a total of $154,000.
The home visits follow NOPD's car "courtesy" checks, where officers tested parked car doors to see if they were locked. In June, New Orleans Citybusiness reported that notes were left on cars; the note either was checked with a "thank you" for properly securing the car or informed the owner that the car was "discovered unlocked" but left "properly secured" by the officer — which suggests the car was opened and locked without the owner's permission. The Louisiana Justice Institute wrote on its blog that "it will take major changes for the department to change its reputation, and we suspect stunts like this will only continue to alienate residents."
Since Operation Force began, NOPD says it saw a 19 percent drop in car burglaries and a 3.2 percent drop in auto theft. NOPD reports 1,883 auto burglaries since January 2011, and in 128 of those cases burglars stole guns from the cars. (Sixty-three cases involved unlocked cars.) Serpas said in a statement that NOPD "can't emphasize enough how important it is for people to take their belongings out of their cars and lock their doors when they exit their vehicles. Without question: residents should never leave any kind of weapon in their cars, because those weapons could end up in the wrong hands." — Alex Woodward