«Mission Statement The following Mission Statement was adopted by the Board of Directors on March 28, 2000: The Committee for a Better New Orleans is ...»
increasing the number of halfway houses in the New Orleans area; reducing caseloads for parole and probation officers; employer education and job placement programs, possibly including changes in certain laws to make ex-convicts more employable; and ongoing support systems that continue past initial parole or probation periods. The good news is that several very effective programs, such as Project Return, do exist. The bad news is that addressing this problem comprehensively will require substantial funding, although reallocation of funds could defray a sizeable percentage of the costs.
A distinct although not separate issue prioritized by the Task Force was that of domestic violence.
Frequently related to drug abuse, this is a widespread problem in New Orleans that often seems to fly below the public radar. As a result, public education about the problem is a key component of solving it.
Expanding the use of an integrated approach to combating the problem is also essential, with teamwork among law enforcement agencies and local and state social service entities. Family counseling to prevent domestic violence incidents needs to be widely available. Last but far from least, victims of domestic violence need protection and access to services that at present are tragically lacking.
Finally, the Task Force asked that strong reference be made to the public safety issues of hurricanes and hazardous materials. With everything else they took on, the Task Force did not feel they had the time to address these issues in their Action Plan. However, City officials and the public at large need to be aware of the dangers. For example, there is little acknowledgement of the substantial quantities of hazardous materials that pass through New Orleans every day, via rail, trucks, river shipping, and pipelines. These materials include extremely toxic substances that in the event of a spill could cause numerous deaths and leave a section of the City uninhabitable for many years. Plans for communicating about a hazardous materials incident, measuring its severity, evacuating as appropriate, and cleaning up afterwards need to be developed and communicated, and implementation resources put in place.
Similarly, response plans for hurricane threats, while more advanced, need continued work and much better communication to the public. Evacuating the City and the region is a unique and difficult challenge, with limited departure avenues, a high percentage of people without vehicles, and the need to transport safely the elderly, the disabled and the incarcerated. In addition, people in the City must be made aware of the severity of the threat of a major hurricane, as many have indicated they would remain even in the face of a Category 4 or 5 storm. Experts suggest that New Orleans could be effectively shut down for up to six months in certain scenarios; in this context, staying home to protect one's property is a futile gesture. In both the hurricane and hazardous materials situations, far more work is needed from the City, the media and the private sector. A more detailed discussion of these issues can be found in the Public Safety Issue Paper.
During the public input phase of the CBNO process, the Public Safety issue of pollution and the environment emerged as an area of serious concern to the citizens of New Orleans. Specific comments were received regarding neighborhoods built on toxic landfills, other forms of pollution in the City’s neighborhoods, the need to revitalize brownfield sites, high levels of pollution in the river, and the need to preserve natural assets in the City. In addition, the poor health of a large percentage of New Orleanians was raised as a significant concern.
While the Public Safety Action Plan is largely a very straightforward document, considerable political will and support from local legislators will be required to enact key portions of it. Funding will also be an issue, and public awareness will have to be raised in order to garner widespread support for funding increases. Compounding this is the fact that many public safety initiatives rely on considerable federal funding; yet most of these grants only last for short periods of time. Yet these issues tear at the very fabric of society, and their resolution -- or lack thereof -- will play a significant role in charting the course of the future for New Orleans.
Key crossover issues:
- Poverty (City Management, Economic Development, Education, Housing)
- Education (Economic Development, Education, Housing)
- Brownfields (Economic Development)
- Crime (Economic Development)
- Workforce (Economic Development)
- Alternative schools (Education)
- Brownfields (Public Safety)
Critical Issues and Goals
1.0 The need for education and prevention to address the City's drug problems.
As long as there is a demand for drugs and a market for drug dealers to exploit, no amount of increased law enforcement efforts will have a lasting effect on the City's drug problem. Eliminating the demand for drugs through effective prevention, education, treatment, and rehabilitation is the only permanent solution to the problem.
Eliminate experimentation with the use of drugs among elementary and middle school students through enhanced educational efforts, structured activities and alternative economic opportunities.
1.1 Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB), the Office of Catholic Schools and independent private schools, in cooperation with components of the Orleans Parish criminal justice system, to support existing anti-drug education programs and explore opportunities for developing and introducing new programs throughout the entire schools systems.
1.2 City District Attorney, in partnership with OPSB, the Office of Catholic Schools and independent private schools, to develop and secure funding for an integrated approach to drug testing and treatment within the schools, aimed at eliminating experimentation and the use of drugs among elementary and middle school students. The approach will include voluntary drug testing, juvenile drug courts, expanded public treatment facilities, and creating treatment facilities within the school systems.
1.3.1 Time Frame: July 2001 - Ongoing 1.3.2 Financing: No additional financing required 1.3.3 Resources: No additional human resources required 1.3.4 Legislation: Increased appropriation of Department of Corrections, with possibility of federal support. Feasibility: 5
1.4 CBNO Public Safety Task Force, in cooperation with the Greater New Orleans Education Foundation (GNOEF), to explore opportunities to introduce citizen-based programs to eliminate experimentation with and use of drugs, including drug courts, inclusion of "street law" education programs and conflict resolution workshops in schools.
1.4.1 Time Frame: July 2001 - Ongoing 1.4.2 Financing: No additional financing required 1.4.3 Resources: No additional human resources required 1.4.4 Legislation: None required
1.5 University Presidents Advisory Council to conduct periodic cost/benefit reviews and assessments of the effectiveness of school-related drug programs to ensure accountability of those responsible for implementation and coordination of such programs.
1.5.1 Time Frame: July 2001 - Ongoing 1.5.2 Financing: $25,000 - $100,000. Feasibility: 7 1.5.3 Resources: External consultants will be required. Feasibility: 7 1.5.4 Legislation: None required
1.6 University Presidents Advisory Council, in cooperation with the Orleans Public School System CEO and the parochial and private schools, with support from the New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD) and the community, to support the development of recreational and educational activities and economic opportunities for youth as real alternatives to the drug culture and lives of crime. Such activities and opportunities will include organized recreational programs, career path internships and extra-curricular programs to engage youth in productive endeavors.
2.0 Improving the staffing level and qualifications of the New Orleans Police Department.
The dynamic development of NOPD over the last five years has been identified as a major reason for the reduction in violent crime and an increase in citizen confidence in their police department. The gains made in NOPD's development must be nurtured and further enhanced if New Orleans is to continue on a positive road in its fight against crime.
Increase staffing of the NOPD and provide incentives to encourage officers to receive additional training and attain higher levels of education.
2.2 City to provide monetary and non-monetary incentives to reward increased qualifications of NOPD officers resulting from additional training and/or completing undergraduate and graduate college studies.
3.0 The need for treatment and rehabilitation to address the City's drug problems.
The absence of drug treatment and rehabilitation facilities severely limits the opportunity to reduce the demand for drugs in the City of New Orleans. Public skepticism of the effectiveness of drug rehabilitation efforts works against providing adequate funding for these efforts.
Reduce the demand for drugs, and thereby improve public health and safety, through effective and widely available drug treatment and rehabilitation efforts, including both inpatient and outpatient facilities and programs.
3.2 Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff's Office (OPCSO) to ensure that persons arrested for municipal and state offenses are drug tested and treatment is provided, to the extent that adequate treatment facilities are available.
4.0 The need for a more coordinated approach and more effective information-sharing among all elements of the criminal justice system.
The criminal justice system in New Orleans is structurally fragmented. City, state and federal agencies share responsibilities for the apprehension, prosecution and incarceration of criminals.
This fragmentation hurts efforts to properly track and provide efficient and fair prosecution of persons arrested for crimes. The most immediate need is to ensure that the components of the criminal justice system have access to and accountability for information on persons arrested for crimes and can track those individuals through the prosecution process.
Create a structure to facilitate a more coordinated and improved communication system involving all elements of the local, state and federal adult and juvenile criminal justice systems, resulting in improved coordination, efficiency and accountability.
4.1 District Attorney, in cooperation with the OPCSO and Criminal District Court, to develop a "major offender" classification, which can identify and prioritize dangerous and violent offenders during the criminal justice process for expedited handling.
4.2 Information Systems Working Group, which includes OPCSO, NOPD, Criminal Courts, and Orleans Parish Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, to enhance and complete the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) and ensure that it is properly maintained, monitored and utilized, including necessary statutory and/or constitutional remedies.
43.3 CBNO to sponsor a coalition of independent citizen groups, including the Metropolitan Crime Commission, Crimestoppers, Bureau of Governmental Research, the New Orleans Police Foundation, Citizens and Victims Against Crime, and others, to review strategically the criminal justice system on an ongoing basis to make the system more efficient and accountable, while protecting individual rights, including due process.
This review should consider the issue of multiple police jurisdictions within Orleans Parish and identify best practices employed by other U.S. cities and counties in addressing similar problems.
5.0 The need for educational, worker training and re-entry programs and opportunities for the incarcerated.
Until persons incarcerated are provided effective rehabilitation opportunities which offer meaningful, realistic alternatives to a life of crime, our community will continue to recycle criminals who prey on society, commit new crimes and return to prison. Current statistics indicate that the majority of persons incarcerated for crimes lack education and skills which would allow them to lead productive lives. A focus on providing tools for incarcerated persons to choose alternatives to crime could begin to break the cycle of crime and recidivism which plagues our City.
Mandate the use of state funds to provide comprehensive training for inmates, probationers, parolees, and ex-inmates, including basic education, vocational training, and life and workplace skills training, including support systems and employer participation to enhance the likelihood of re-entry as productive members of society.
5.1 OPCSO, in partnership with the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, to develop functional halfway houses as support for re-entry of ex-offenders into society, including the creation of day reporting centers, which will provide outpatient counseling and aftercare programs funded by the state.
5.2 City's vocational education system and job training programs, such as the New Orleans Jobs Initiative, in cooperation with the OPCSO and the Louisiana Department of Safety and Corrections, to form a strategic alliance with the New Orleans business community to actively mentor and offer vocational training opportunities for juvenile and adult ex-offenders in the OPCSO system.
5.3 CBNO to inventory current programs offered by non-profit organizations and to assist them in acquiring resources to provide educational programs, substance abuse treatment and job skills training to ex-offenders, parolees and probationers.