By Claire Byun
The New Orleans Police Department is working with city officials to address rising violence surrounding a Mid-City business, but officials need input from neighbors when the time comes.
NOPD First District Commander Hans Ganthier addressed the rising violence and drug arrests at or near Ulloa Street Playhouse – a small restaurant that’s been troubling neighbors for years. A man was killed a block from the restaurant Saturday in a hail of gunshots from at least two different weapons, Ganthier said.
Police officers responded around 2:30 p.m. and found at the man dead on the sidewalk. Ganthier said NOPD has been combatting rising violence and drug sales at that location for months.
“We have been hitting this area, but apparently that’s not been as effective as we’ve liked,” Ganthier said to the Mid-City Neighborhood Association on Monday.
Ganthier said he’s been sending most of his resources to the area – especially after Saturday’s murder – but he’s looking into legal solutions to finally cut down on the violence. First District officials have a meeting with Rebecca Dietz, city attorney, next week to see if legal action can be taken against the trouble-makers.
Neighbors said the noise and violence has been a problem for years, especially during late-night block parties on the weekend. Pauline Patterson, who owns Treo and Tana on Tulane Avenue, said the block around the Playhouse is packed every Saturday and Sunday from those parties.
“The streets were filled with people,” Patterson said. “It was just jam-packed.”
Mallory LeBlanc, co-founder of the Mid-City Tulane Banks Neighborhood Association, said she can hear music from the parties late into the night. She said the neighborhood has been quiet since Saturday’s shooting, which is typical.
“It comes in waves,” LeBlanc said. “For three months it’ll be utter hell, but then everyone goes into hiding. It’s always been an issue.”
LeBlanc and the neighborhood association has worked with First District officials to log every call to police, reports of noise, and arrests for narcotics and violence. Those records may help persuade city officials to take action against the property owners in question, Ganthier said, but he needs vocal public support when the time comes.
If the City Council can – and chooses to – take legal action, there will be a public hearing, Ganthier said. That’s when he needs Mid-City residents to show up in force.
“I would love to shut down multiple businesses in the district, but that’s not how it goes,” Ganthier said. “We need your vocal opinion, just like you’ve been expressing here.”
City Council involvement is the next step, and at two council members said they’re working with police on the hotspot. Laura Bryan, with Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell’s office, told MCNO that the councilwoman is working on solutions.
“We know to be more engaged, and we hope to work with you all to help fight this growing problem,” Bryan said.
Councilmember Susan Guidry, whose district borders to Tulane-Ulloa area, also said she’s working on a solution to the threat. Guidry said she’s had several conversations with the city attorney’s office, Ganthier, Pauline Patterson of Treo, Councilmeber Cantrell, the family of the property owner of the Ulloa Street Playhouse and others in the past couple of weeks.
LeBlanc said she wasn’t surprised by Saturday’s homicide, especially since the violence has seemingly been “ramping up” for the past few weeks. The only solution is to work with neighbors and involve the city, she said, so the property owners are held accountable.
Jim Olsen, commissioner of the Mid-City Security District, said MCNO had similar problems with a businesses on Cleveland Avenue a few years ago. Olsen said MCNO worked with the business owner and found solutions that “created a safer Mid-City” for all residents.
“It’s quite a process and you’ve got a lot to do, but something can be done,” he said.
Though most of the violence is relegated to the block surrounding the Playhouse, neighbor Stephanie Hoskins said the crime is encroaching. She lives just a few houses away from where a man was killed Saturday, and said she’s frustrated by how often violence occurs in her neighborhood.
Hoskins said she takes pride in her neighborhood and is working with others to make it safer for everyone. She said she’s appreciative to the NOPD for sending limited resources to the area, but hopes the city will get involved so the violence can finally be stamped out.
She, along with other members of the Tulane Banks Neighborhood Association, are planning to storm the public meetings to give voice to the neighborhood’s problems.
“Every one here has been so involved,” LeBlanc said. “We’re working on it, working together. We’re going to solve this.”