Lawmaker: Bring National Guard back to murder-ravaged New Orleans
New Orleans' murder rate is 10 times the national rate. There were 199 murders in 2011, and just a few weeks in to 2012, there have been 20 slayings.
What could possibly stop the killing on the streets of New Orleans?
Some city residents -- and now, one state lawmaker -- are looking back to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for a solution: They want to call in the National Guard.
This week, residents' disgust, outrage and fear appeared to reach a boiling point after a man in the historic Algiers Point neighborhood reportedly was killed while trying to stop a carjacking.
The man, Harry "Mike" Ainsworth, had jumped on the hood of the car Wednesday morning; his young sons, whom he had just dropped off at a bus stop, heard the gunshots and watched as their father staggered onto a lawn and collapsed, according to the Times-Picayune.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu held a scheduled news conference a few hours later announcing that he was asking local judges to set higher bonds for people arrested on weapons charges. Landrieu also planned to implement a program used in Milwaukee that reportedly drastically reduced that city's homicide rate.
But others are calling for more drastic and immediate measures: They want the National Guard back.
Some residents of Algiers Point asked police Supt. Ronal Serpas about the idea at a packed neighborhood meeting Thursday. Serpas told them that he would rather see more probation and parole officers in the city and the freeing up of city officers by allowing state police to deal with car accidents on interstates inside the city, the Picayune reported.
A local TV station, WDSU, reported that state Rep. Austin Badon Jr. has called for redeploying the troops, thousands of whom were dispatched to the city to bring order after the flooding and mayhem caused by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.
The troops left in January 2006, but they returned again in the middle part of that year when the streets turned violent again. The troops pulled out a second time in 2009.
The deployment of the Guard in those instances drew criticism from civil libertarians and some locals, who decried the militarization of the city and worried that the Guard lacked domestic law enforcement training.
Badon, a Democrat and native of New Orleans, apparently has more pressing concerns.
"You have to have a high amount of visibility of law enforcement on the streets. Bringing in the National Guard, the Louisiana National Guard, is a quick fix to a long-term problem," Badon told the TV station. "It would make the citizens feel a lot safer by having as many law enforcement on the street."
-- Richard Fausset
Photo: With the Mississippi River bridge behind them, Louisiana National Guard troops march in New Orleans on June 20, 2006. Credit: Alex Brandon / Associated Press