"My office is a FEMA trailer," Police Superintendent Warren Riley told three members of Congress who presided over a four-hour hearing on the city's criminal justice system Tuesday at Dillard University.A criminal justice system without offices. A police force hemorrhaging officers. A crime lab that can’t keep up with the number of cases. A mayor saying we need immediate help because we don’t have the resources to fight crime. A district attorney saying he needs funding because violent crime witnesses have a “very real fear” of criminals who, it “seems,” don’t stay in jail very long.
In 2005, the police force rose to a roster of 1,741, Riley said, but today is short 482 officers while the homicide rate is at pre-Katrina levels while only about half the population has returned.
"As of April 5, 2007, we've lost another 49 officers," said Riley…
"We have one firearms examiner and one fingerprint examiner left," Riley said. The crime lab's backlog includes more than 200 guns and about 2,000 narcotics, all awaiting forensic tests.
"I'm asking for very specific things," Nagin said, ticking off a $17 million request for vehicles and equipment, $4 million to provide jobs for 2,000 young people, and $10 million for substance abuse treatment. "We need immediate help. We just don't have the resources at this time."
Jordan said his office is at its third temporary location since the district's attorney's office building on South White Street flooded after the levees failed. His lawyers work on card tables, he said, and deal with victims and witnesses who fear testifying because, it seems to them, criminals don't stay in jail very long.
"We desperately need additional prosecutors to screen violent crime in particular," Jordan said. "We need funding for a victim and witness program because of the very real fear victims of violent crime have in this city of New Orleans."
What…. Are we trying to recruit criminals?
If we don’t have the resources for the New Orleans we want, we might have to accept the New Orleans we have. While that might seem like common sense to many of you, that’s a pretty big leap for me. Different conclusions can be made from that premise than I have previously made.
When it comes to crime, particularly violent crime, post-Katrina New Orleans can’t cope. And fighting for more funds from an unwilling federal government for various recovery goals might be taking us away from actually recovering.
I am not giving up. The federal government bears much responsibility for the federal flood and slow response after the federal flood. But, Uncle Sam is not going to buy a brand new, shiny New Orleans for us all.
I just need to rethink my strategy a little.