Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Murder in New Orleans

Murder in New Orleans
April 30th, 2007

Canal St.

New Orleans
, La.

The lights flashed, my throat closed, heart fell.

The NOPD had pulled me over. “You all have a cell phone law down here, huh?” I asked.

“No, we have a red-light law,” the officer said.

Ouch. I had no clue I’d passed through the intersection prematurely. Luckily, this veteran NOPD officer will be retiring to Nebraska in four years.

He saw my Nebraska license and immediately wanted to know everything about the state.

"You ever heard of Broken Bow?" the officer asked.

"No way, my brother's wife had family there,” I said.

Crazy good karma.

Knowing Broken Bow, population 3,700, is a shot in a million. Somehow using it to get out of a ticket in New Orleans has to be a shot in a billion.

I should write Reynold "Mac" McMeen, Broken Bow's mayor. In some strange way, he saved me 150 bucks.

We spoke for 30 minutes. I finished the Midwestern-chatter with my indelible memory of the last West-Central Nebraska sunset I'd seen.

We transitioned into the officers' perceptions of New Orleans' crime and murder scene.

I think everyone should know what he and his partner said.

And I'll trust anyone moving to Broken Bow. Come on, it has to be the center of America's moral compass. At least compared to the Big Easy.

As I moved here word spread amongst family and friends. By the time my two-day journey to New Orleans ended, I checked my email. Several people had written me with concern.


News reports this past week indicate NO is not the safest city in which to live right now. Robert please be careful…Good luck.”

And another.


It’s great to hear that your moving to New Orleans. But I saw Anderson Cooper the other day on CNN. He says the murder rate in New Orleans is sky-rocketing. Be careful… Talk to you soon.”

I decided to ask my new NOPD friends about the emailed concerns.

“My family is worried about the murder rate here,” I said to the one moving to Nebraska.

“Robert, listen,” he said. “The only thing that might happen to you is you might get a gun pulled on you and you’ll lose your wallet.”

As long as you're not a drug dealer."

Oh. That’s good.

I thought about it more, and put it in context with the anxiety and fear of family and friends. The officers’ perspective actually shed positive light about the situation.

Aside from the slaying of New Orleans filmmaker Helen Hill in early 2007, almost all murders in NOLA are not random they said.

The officers, each with over a decade on the force, told me about New Orleans’ murder scene.

“It’s a drug thing, it’s always been a drug thing,” one officer said.

But Post-KATRINA, they said, territories and unwritten maps of “turf” decades-old are now gone. When you have arch-rivals living on the same block, competition for a new drug market, and the prestige that comes with it ensures brutal violence.

Part of the game they say. These modern-day conquistadors are redefining this "turf"--and changing many lives as well as the world's perspective of New Orleans for the worse.

I can’t help but think of what a friend I met on the banks of the Mississippi said,

“Drugs have ruined so many brothers down here, bro.”

Friends, worrying about traveling here or loved ones living here should not be a major concern.

My friends and I always try to walk in groups. We tell each other plans and destinations. And at the end of the day, we know it could happen to us anywhere.



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