From the written testimony, submitted before the actual testimony, of Chief Judge David L. Bell, Orleans Parish Juvenile Court for the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing "Rising Violent Crime in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina" on June 20, 2007:
OPJC presently has six hundred eighty-nine (689) open delinquency cases. From January 1, 2007 through today, the New Orleans Police Department arrested approximately eight-hundred (800) juveniles and the New Orleans District Attorneys Office Juvenile Division filed two hundred and eighty four (284) new delinquency petitions. Based on the new petitions we are seeing significant drug use, which we believe is a result of unaddressed trauma and mental health needs, a direct result of Katrina. For example, 28% of the cases that come before the court are for possession of narcotics.1 Most of the youth appearing before the court, eighty-two percent (82%), are fifteen to seventeen years old (15-17) who have unaddressed educational needs and lack the skills to obtain gainful employment.2The judge is seeing “significant drug use,” “unaddressed trauma and mental health needs,” and “unaddressed educational needs” in the juveniles that show up in court and they “lack the skills to obtain gainful employment.” And 93 percent of the delinquency petitions filed are for African American youths.
We are seeing an increase in disproportionate minority contact even though the population of New Orleans has changed since Katrina3; ninety-three percent (93%) of delinquency petitions filed are young people of color.4
1 25% burglary/theft/trespass; 15% abuse/assault/battery; 11% robbery; and 9% weapons.
2 0.5% are 8 yrs old; 2% are 11 yrs old; 3.9% are 13 yrs old; 12% are 14 yrs old; 18% are 15 yrs
old; 26% are 16 yrs old; 38% are 17 yrs old, 0.5% are 18 yrs old.
3 47% African American; 43% White
4 79% African American male; 14 % African American female; 2.8% White male .08% White female.
The judge probably doesn’t have statistics for the racial breakdown of the NOPD’s juvenile arrests. But, would anyone be surprised if 93 percent of them were also black?
We are damning a generation of African Americans by neglect.
We are neglecting education in African American neighborhoods. What schools have been closed the longest? How many schools are selective or cap enrollment?
We are neglecting infrastructure in African American neighborhoods. Drive through any of them.
We are neglecting security in African American neighborhoods. The clusters of murders are all in black neighborhoods.
We are neglecting jobs in African American neighborhoods. Nothing new there.
We are neglecting healthcare in African American neighborhoods. Charity? And what about preventive healthcare?
“But, wait,” one might say. “It’s the poor we are neglecting.” Race and poverty dance together in New Orleans.
Why do the numbers keep coming out this way? Look at the faces of the murdered. Overwhelmingly black. Look at the faces of the incarcerated. Overwhelmingly black. Look at the faces of the public housing residents living in substandard housing. Overwhelmingly black. Look at the faces of the public school students in a public school system that was failing before the storm. Overwhelmingly black. Look at the faces of the youths in the juvenile court. Overwhelmingly black.
Look at the faces in New Orleans. They are not overwhelmingly black. New Orleans’ population is no longer 66 percent African American. They are the ones who have not returned, or can not return.
Racial injustice. Neglect. They dance together, too.