Mary Tutwiler

A murderous account: New Orleans

by Mary Tutwiler

The _New York Pos_t magazine, Page Six, ran a gushy travel story about New Orleans, this weekend, titled The Big Easy Is Back. The inch-deep story oozed praise for the luxury hotels, Emeril Lagasse’s empire of restaurants, and the hipster lifestyle of the Faubourg Marigny. Needless to say, it didn’t mention anything about the out-of-control murder rate in the Crescent City, a theme reported on in a multi-package series in the Sunday _Times Picayune.
One of the five headlines reports yet another murder, this time parricide in a wealthy uptown enclave. Music writer Keith Spera, a native New Orleanian, ponders his deep concerns raising a child in the wonderful old neighborhood of Esplanade Ridge in Mid City, a neighborhood now becoming inured to the sound of gunfire. Artist Willy Birch struggles to rally his 7th Ward neighbors to confront the generation of young men who are destroying their own lives with gang and drug wars. A forth story reports that half of last year’s 179 murders were committed in broad daylight. Click here for a map of the city’s murders by neighborhood.

Taken in one terrible serving with the morning’s coffee, this package is a chilling reminder of what’s not back in New Orleans — safety. With all the work done and projected to rebuild the city’s reputation for tourism, it is beyond baffling that there is not more money and focus on building a police department that is competent to take on the amount of crime in the city. As the murder rate continues to climb, even publications that just skim the surface, as the Post story did, won’t be able to gloss over that it’s dangerous to walk even in the city’s tourism mecca, the French Quarter. And without tourism, the economic engine that drives the city, how will New Orleans’s continue to rebuild?

I was talking to a friend, a 5th generation resident of New Orleans, about living in the city with its rising crime. His smile was rueful. “It’s still a beautiful place,” he said. “If you like witnessing the end of empire.”