The recent march on City Hall has caused more attention to be focused on the crime problem here in the city. Mostly, it’s just the local press realizing that they should cover it more. I seriously doubt that the officials who are charged with actually addressing the problem are suddenly going to come up with some heretofore overlooked ‘solution.’
I don’t have enough immersion in the criminal justice system to be able to make an independent assessment of why crime is such a problem. From the press coverage I’ve seen, it seems that one problem is that many crimes that have witnesses aren’t properly prosecuted. First, there is pervasive fear on the part of witnesses to testify. If you’ve seen a gangland shooting then the last thing you want to do is to put your own life at risk.
But there was one recent report of a case being dropped because the prosecutors couldn’t locate a witness who was a cop. The policeman had retired and they ‘just couldn’t find him.’ Well, he was still living in his same old house and somehow they just couldn’t locate him. It took the local news guy about a half an hour to find him. Granted, the prosecutors are working under difficult conditions in temporary headquarters. Their crime lab is still not functioning. So, they are still suffering from Post-Katrina problems, ones that require serious funding that apparently is not there.
But, that said, it appears that the prosecutors have long had a problems with managing witnesses. A friend of mine who was a criminal defense lawyer in New Orleans until she and her husband relocated to New York (he’s also a criminal defense attorney), had this to say about the local crime problem:
[My husband] & I were discussing the rampage from the relatively safety of the Upper East Side. Frankly, amelioration requires an effective D.A.’s office. its been our experience that Cops make the arrests, DAs fail to follow thru usually because they fail to make any connection with or inspire any confidence in witnesses. I can’t tell you how many victims’ family/friends/witnesses I spoke to in death penalty cases who had never spoken to anyone from the prosecution office. I could drone on and on but what good would it do?
Yes, we can all drone on and on. Perhaps now, at least, local officials are feeling some heat. But whether that heat will produce a solution remains to be seen. Frankly, I’m skeptical.