New Orleans Taps Faith, Community Leaders for New Anti-Crime Effort

New Orleans city officials launched a new anti-crime initiative Tuesday together with over 100 of the city's faith and neighborhood leaders.

The Cops, Clergy and Community Coalition (CCCC), which was unveiled at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, intends to serve as a uniting force and catalyst to rebuild faith, restore citizen trust and enhance quality of life services in the New Orleans Police Department, which has been struggling to tackle the city's pervasive crime problem.

In doing so, city officials believe the coalition will play a key role in crime-plagued neighborhoods where people are reluctant to cooperate with the police or reluctant to step forward with information that could lead to an arrest or prevent a crime from taking place.

"They (coalition members) may be able to say, 'We've worked very closely with this, and I think you should have faith in the government and you should have faith in the police department,'" explained NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas during Tuesday's press conference.

"That's a critical, critical piece," he added.

The Rev. Antoine M. Barriere, a coalition member and senior pastor of the Household of Faith Family Worship Church International, illustrated Serpas's point in encouraging the New Orleans community to take a stand against crime in their neighborhoods by speaking up when they know something.

"We have to stand up and say, 'We know the individuals who perpetrated the crimes.' And they may be the family members of some of our congregation," he said.

Though the unveiling of the new coalition was not expected until later, the recent death of a two-year-old who was killed by a stray bullet prompted officials to move for an earlier launch.

Jeremy Galmon had been caught in the crossfire of a gun battle last Sunday as the toddler was sitting in a car with his little sister. Following the shooting, members of the community resolved to help find the shooters and asked the rest of the public for information that could lead to an arrest.

"This will not change if we do not make an active, intentional decision [to] not accept[] this kind of behavior anymore," remarked Patricia Jones, whose late brother was also killed in the street.

Adding to that, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said when the community collectively takes one small step, "that is a huge step forward."

"This is a battle that all of us are involved in and one that we have to win," he added.

Though New Orleans reported a 17 percent reduction in the number of violent crimes last year compared to the year before (from 179 murders to 173 murders), the city still has highest per-capita murder rate in the country.

Furthermore, five months into 2010, 80 murders had already been reported in the city, putting it on track to surpass 190 by the end of the year. In 2004, the year before Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, New Orleans reported 265 homicides.