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National Guard To Return To New Orleans To Fight Crime

New Orleans has had it's fair share of disasters. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Allen Johnson
New Orleans (AFP) Jun 20, 2006
The National Guard will return to New Orleans to help control a flood of violent crime, Louisiana's governor said Monday, after the shooting deaths of five teenagers. "The situation is urgent," Governor Kathleen Blanco said in a statement.

"The senseless slaying of five teenagers this weekend is shocking. Things like this should never happen and I am going to do all I can to stop it."

Blanco said she had been in discussions with the police department to send in state troopers as reinforcements.

Blanco's decision to deploy the National Guard came hours after Mayor Ray Nagin asked for at least 250 troops to help patrol the streets.

The National Guard helped restore order in August in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which flooded much of New Orleans, sections of which remain largely abandoned.

The last guard patrols left New Orleans January 1, turning law enforcement duties back over to local police, with patchy results.

"I have two warnings: First, to parents: keep your teenagers off the streets and out of trouble," Blanco said. "Second, to judges: I am urging you to keep hardened criminals where they belong - in jail and off the streets. We must protect our citizens."

Flanked by the mothers of several teenagers killed in a hail of gunfire over the weekend, Nagin said the National Guard would patrol vast areas of the city that were heavily damaged "so we can put a policeman on every corner if necessary".

The mayor also vowed to do whatever he could to stop the violence that has killed 53 people so far this year.

"This is our line in the sand," Nagin said.

The city will enforce a curfew for youth, pursue funding for "nighttime basketball" to keep youngsters out of trouble and try to increase police pay to attract recruits.

Until recently, Police Chief Warren Riley had asserted his 1,486 officers could protect the city, which has lost more than half of its 465,000 residents since Katrina struck Aug. 29. Dozens of cops deserted as gun-toting looters roamed the streets in the storm's aftermath.

However, the force has been hit by sporadic allegations of brutality and scandal. Two veteran officers assigned to the French Quarter were recently booked with armed robbery following the alleged "shakedown" of a massage parlor.

And as the mayor addressed the media in the city council chambers Monday morning, members of the city civil service commission began hearing the cases of nearly two dozen officers who are appealing disciplinary actions ranging from reprimands to dismissals.

The mayor and the city council have vowed to hold a crime summit in two weeks to seek more public input on how to stop the violence.

Local criminologist Peter Scharf said despite the welcome show of political unity and a litany of proposed initiatives, the city's strategy for curtailing crime remained unclear.

"What is it they are trying to do?" Scharf said. "A heavy police presence alone won't do it." Better schools and drug treatment also are needed, too.

One activist told AFP the police department has become estranged from the community it serves.

"The real problem why people don't come forward is because there is no communication between police and the community," said community activist Norris Henderson, whose sister was shot in the leg during a Martin Luther King Day parade in New Orleans.

"Nobody is asking the root questions - such as how are these children getting these weapons."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Washington (AFP) Jun 19, 2006
The United States is not prepared to cope with a large-scale terrorist attack or a powerful hurricane, the US Department of Homeland Security said in a report published Friday. The Nationwide Plan Review, ordered by President George W. Bush and Congress, examined whether the emergency plans of cities and states were adequate to manage another tragedy.

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