By Claire Byun
New Orleans’ most violent day so far this year started with a Mid-City shooting that left three people dead and two others wounded.
The Mid-City Tulane Banks Neighborhood Association – only a few months old – is grappling with violent crime around Tulane Avenue after repeated reports of drug deals, loud parties and a rash of shootings that have left several people dead. The association’s founders called an emergency meeting Monday to find a path forward after Saturday’s tragedies.
“We want to know our neighbors. We want to understand what our neighborhood needs to be a safe place to live,” Josh Capdeville, TBNA co-founder, said.
The Tulane corridor is one of the most violent areas of the city which has sucked a majority of the New Orleans Police Department’s First District’s resources. Officers have been stationed in the Ulloa Street area since October after three people were fatally shot and two others wounded. On Saturday, officers on scene heard the gunshots that ended three lives.
“I really believe we need to stand with you together and let you know we’re not going to go anywhere,” Fist District Commander Hans Ganthier said. “You can’t take back what happened the other night , we can only go forward.”
About fifty residents, NOPD officials and city representatives gathered Monday night for a crime prevention forum hosted by TBNA. Ganthier was on-hand to answer questions about how officers are responding to the corridor’s continued crime with a band of officers behind him – including NOPD Chief Michael Harrison.
Representatives from City Councilmember Latoya Cantrell and Susan Guidry’s offices were also at the meeting. Both representatives said councilmembers were out of town.
Capdeville kicked off the meeting by repeating the organization’s original goal of zero reported crimes within its boundaries.
“Our neighborhood is not seeing an uptick in crime. Were’ seeing a continuation of clear, well documented violence,” Capdeville said.
Residents raised questions regarding the NOPD’s response to the recent shootings while others criticized the continued violence, especially given how many officers are stationed along Tulane Avenue every night. One resident expressed concern that other parts of the district would suffer without attention from regular patrols.
Ganthier said he has to focus on where crime is most likely to happen, especially given the NOPD’s limited resources. First District has one of the highest rates of homicides this year.
“We have to monitor with a really laser-like focus where our crime is coming from,” Ganthier said.
Tulane Avenue businesses are “disheartened” by the violence, especially given all the recent improvements on the block. Roux Merlo, representing the Greater Mid-City Business Association, said the problem stems from businesses who don’t “follow the rules.”
“With all the positive things that are happening on Tulane Avenue, it’s like we take two steps forward and five steps back,” Merlo said.
Crowd members came from all over the city – not just within the Tulane Banks neighborhood – and tensions ran high several times during the two-hour meetup. One woman, who said she owns the property housing the carwash where October’s mass shootings started, accused TBNA co-founder Mallory LeBlanc of running her tenants away by vilifying the business. She said the property has been in her family for 80 years and was in operation until two months ago.
“Next time you go on TV and vilify my property, you’re gonna find yourself in court,” she said.
Several crowd members accused her of not caring about the lives lost to homicides, and the woman eventually ran out of the meeting.
Bryan Lagarde, founder of ProjectNOLA, took the floor late in the meeting to promote and explain the impact of security cameras on all types of crime. Lagarde fielded questions about the camera’s cost barriers to some – they need a $150 installation – and reiterated their helpfulness in solving several crimes around the city.
Lagarde also said police classify calls of service and “downgrade” those deemed less important – a comment deemed unfair by Chief Harrison, who stepped in to defend his officers.
“We treat every call seriously,” Harrison said. “When you call and have an emergency, we’re breaking our necks to come get to you and ensure your safety.”
TBNA officials said they’re requesting a meeting with City Council to review the city’s business permitting procedure to ensure all businesses are operating legally and within their permitted capacity. The next meeting of TBNA is set for July 17, though the location has yet to be set.