Imagine that your mother was 13 when she had you. Imagine that your father was a drug dealer, and that he was murdered when you were only 4 years old.
Imagine a childhood living in abject poverty with five other siblings, and then and losing the little you had during Hurricane Katrina. Then you end up at Cohen High School, one of the worst in the city. There are days when there's not enough food. Where do you think you'd be today if this was your story?
The story belongs to Leonard Galmond, and once you hear the whole of it, you'll know why this community has embraced him. Leonard conquered those odds to obtain a scholarship to Yale University. In just a few weeks he will leave New Orleans to attend one of the most presitigous universities in the world on a full scholarship.
How did he do it? He had the love of his family, he was smart and he worked hard. He found his passion and gift in art, and made the choice never to get on the path of crime like so many around him.
If you are weary of hearing stories of young men who are wasting their lives on a path of crime, who don't value life and have no motivation to change... you are not alone. And you are going to love meeting Leonard.
His story is one we all need to hear. Click the link below to listen to my interview with Leonard, and enjoy.
Beyond the horror of ten people being shot on one of the most famous streets in America last week, beyond the sadness of one young lady murdered at the beginning of her adult life, we now face the reality that New Orleans doesn't have enough police officers.
Everyone agrees that having many more officers on Bourbon Street in the early morning hours of that Sunday may not have prevented the insane actions of two men… but it clearly brought to light once again that we have a crisis in police manpower.
Within days, Mayor Mitch Landrieu called a press conference announcing that he had asked State Police for one hundred permanent officers, and asked President Barack Obama for extra Federal help; in essence saying the Feds had abandoned the streets of America's cities.
The state police sent 50 officers, who will be here through Labor Day. No word yet from the President, however. Michael Anderson, head of the local FBI office, wrote a scathing guest column in the newspaper defending the amount of work his office has done helping with major street crime arrests and convictions in New Orleans in the last several years.
This obviously is a conversation that is going to continue for a while…
Which is why today we talked to Captain Michael Glasser, the head of PANO (the Police Association of New Orleans) about the strong letter he wrote in response to Mayor Landrieu's press conference and the call for more help from the state and federal government. Police Chief Ronal Serpas responds to Glasser in the second half of the show.
Hopefully, the end result will be an honest conversation about how to un-crack the foundation of NOPD.
We all know the facts. Two guys open fire on each other during an argument on Bourbon Street early Sunday morning - then at least one of them opens fire on innocent people walking by.
We have ten people shot, two seriously, and the two shooters still on the run.
Chief Serpas said there were many police stationed in the area. He said some were "at arm's length" to the shooters when it happened. Why didn't they capture the shooters? What's the plan to fix this problem?
Is it more police? Is it better police? Is it better training? Is it funding? If so, how do we get more money to pay more cops, to recruit better cops? Do our cops need to be better equipped to handle this wild west mentality? Did the cops on duty that night have protective vests? Should every cop in the FQ have cameras on their clothes?
Is it better strategy, or better strategic placement of cops? Should we block off side streets after 10pm… like Beale Street in Memphis? Should we have one way in; one way out? Should we ID everybody on Bourbon after 10pm?
Is it a leadership problem? Do we need a clearer vision? We keep bragging about all the young entrepreneurs coming to our city; we keep bragging about record tourism & real estate transactions. The quickest way to run that off; to impede progress; to halt confidence is violent crime, especially in the French Quarter.
We need to figure out who we are. We need to decide how much we will take. And we need to constantly remember that we invite the world into our neighborhoods.
After listening to authorities in many areas of criminal justice and every day concerned citizens, the conversation breaks down to two main themes.
First off: Is the leadership in the city handling the police shortage correctly? Is our city government doing what it can to beat the low morale that pervades the NOPD? And if it is not, what more should they be doing?
Secondly, and equally as important: Everyone is acknowledging that a primary cause of crime is young people not being raised correctly. We have this problem because parents are abandoning their responsibilities, and nobody is holding them accountable.
These two discussions are not meant to simplify a very complex problem in this city and others, but it is two good starting points on a conversation about what needs to be done in the short run and long run.
I have said this many times: Crime is complex and heartbreaking and a constant battle, but our guests on "An Open Mind" Monday refuse to give up.
Take a listen to the podcasts below with grassroots community anti-crime activists Al Mims and Captain Black, Loyola criminologist Dr. George Capowich, and PANO attorney Eric Hessler.