‘We’re going to do everything that we can’: Gov. Edwards and LSP discuss crime-fighting strategies

Edwards urges young people to shun crime
Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 7:20 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Governor John Bel Edwards says he takes seriously the escalating violent crime in New Orleans and some other areas of the state.

“We’re not going to give up, we’re going to do everything that we can, we’re going to be the best possible partner. You’re going to continue to see elevated levels of not just state troopers but DPS officers in the New Orleans area working with the New Orleans Police Department every single day, working with our federal partners every single day,” said Edwards.

Crime was the focus as FOX 8 talked one-on-one with the governor and Col. Lamar Davis, Superintendent of La. State Police.

“I do want to dispel this notion that we’re not present in New Orleans today with an elevated number of troopers because we are,” said Edwards.

He said 150 troopers are in the New Orleans area.

“And working on specific strategies, in order to combat violent crime and make sure that we’re making arrests. I will tell you that we have individuals from the NOPD who are embedded at the State Police Crime Lab so that we more quickly process evidence and get that back to the prosecutors there in New Orleans so that they can move their trials quicker and get people locked up and put away,” said Edwards.

And Col. Davis spoke about the use of technology in ramping up the crime fight.

“And we’ve enhanced our technological approach and our footprint in New Orleans. We’ve also brought in Fusion Center personnel who can take and fuse that information share that information not only with the New Orleans Police Department but with the federal agencies,” he said.

And additional troopers are in the city for the Southern Decadence Festival which is expected to attract 300,000 people.

State Police have manpower shortages, too.

“We’re going to have an elevated presence out there on the highway but also within the city,” said Davis.

Davis was asked to ponder why.

“Well, as we know our culture has changed, it has evolved and as such, you know, when you look at public service as a whole it’s been a little more difficult to attract because there is a lot more opportunities for our young people to involve themselves as well as to be employed in,” he said.

Edwards said, “And we’re doing a better job, of late, making sure we have academies on a regular basis.”

Attrition is an ongoing problem for law enforcement agencies.

“If you go too long without having academies every year you have new people who become eligible to retire and who do in fact retire, so they’re exiting the state; you’ve got to be bringing people in at, at least the same level otherwise you’re always going to have a crunch and so that is a big part of what we’re doing as well and quite frankly we’re going to have to have all of our local partners do that and make sure that they’re putting forth the strongest possible effort to recruit and to retain,” said Edwards.

The governor was also asked if he was concerned crime would impact tourism which is a big part of the economy.

“We have a problem we have to get on top of not just in New Orleans but across the state,” said Edwards. “What we know at the present is that thus far the crime situation has not depressed tourism and in fact, this is a rather significant statement to make but I know that it’s true, is that the hotel and motel occupancy thus far in 2022 has reflected by the room taxes is actually greater than it was in 2019 before COVID when we had the largest number of tourists come to Louisiana to New Orleans in our history.”

Still, he says residents should also feel safe.

“We know that it will adversely tourism, if, if violent crime is too high and it stays that way for too long that’s the inevitable result,” said Edwards. “Regardless of tourism because we people who live and work in New Orleans every single day and around the state of Louisiana and we don’t want them subjected to elevated crime rates, we want to enhance public safety for everyone, not just for visitors.”

And they say combating crime is more than just about police officers.

“We need to look at it from a holistic approach, we can’t just look at it from a criminal justice standpoint because it involves all of us, “said Davis.

He said the community’s help is needed.

“And I think the benefit to that is really addressing a lot of the things our youths are exposed to, trauma and needs of counseling and support and educational services,” said Davis.

And on his plan to transfer some violent juveniles from the Bridge City Detention Center, the governor is not backing down. A lawsuit has been filed challenging the idea.

“That’s not the permanent step but it is the best option available to us and remains the plan,” said Edwards.

But the timetable for implementing it remains fluid.

“Well, I don’t have one, it’ll happen whenever we’re ready, whenever the facility is ready and the staffing is available and all of that is progressing,” Edwards said.

And he on what he would say to at-risk males contemplating getting involved in crime, “Well, I would just ask them to look and see what kind of life they want to have, very few people want to end up dead when they’re 15, 16, 17 years old, they don’t want to be imprisoned as a young man who’s going to spend decades there and so making the right decisions today are incredibly important,” said Edwards.

Davis added, ”We can’t do this alone, it takes all of us.”

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