Our Views: Cities face murder issues

The high number of murders in New Orleans points to a larger problem plaguing other cities in Louisiana, as well as cities across the country, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told a group of Advocate reporters and editors during a recent meeting at his office.

Landrieu said that city officials in Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Shreveport are also struggling to deal with murders, many of them involving young black men killing other black men.

“This is a national epidemic,” said Landrieu, adding that he had consulted with several mayors across the country about the problem, including Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

NOLA for Life, an initiative launched by Landrieu’s office earlier this year, gathers law enforcement and social resources under one umbrella, offering frequent offenders a mix of carrots and sticks in an attempt to stem escalating violence.

Landrieu said the message of the NOLA for Life campaign is simple: “No matter what the issues are, you’ve got to stop shooting each other.”

The philosophy of NOLA for Life is similar to that of BRAVE, or Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination, an initiative recently launched by Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden and other officials. Like NOLA for Life, BRAVE also uses a mix of incentives and punishments, focusing on frequent figures in the most troubled neighborhoods in an effort to reduce violence.

The shared problem of murders in Louisiana’s major cities should be a source of concern, but this common challenge can also present opportunities for cooperation and mutual support. We hope that Louisiana’s mayors exchange information with each other about what’s working — and what is not — in the effort to reduce the numbers of murders in violence-prone areas. State government also has a role to play in addressing the problem. State social service agencies should be important players in collaborative efforts among municipal officials to help steer young people away from lives of crime. The state’s juvenile justice system desperately needs adequate funding to help rehabilitate young criminal offenders before they commit murders. Increasing such funding should be a priority for Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.

Violence is a tragedy not only for Louisiana’s urban areas, but the state as a whole.