City Council at-large candidate JP Morrell released a plan Monday aimed at addressing the city’s rising crime rate, calling for a unit focused on carjackings and other policy changes as New Orleans’ election season begins to ramp up.
Morrell’s plan, which he said was the first of several proposals he will release before the Oct. 9 primary, outlined what he called “common-sense solutions” for the intractable issue of crime, including policies to tackle juvenile delinquency, ways to hire and retain more police officers and ways to better prevent carjackings and other crimes that have seen increases in recent years.
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In the proposal, which was quickly criticized by rivals, Morrell said he would work with state lawmakers to create tougher penalties for adult criminals who recruit children to commit crimes. He would invest in parks and recreation programs to keep young people out of trouble, and work with the New Orleans Police Department to develop a new unit that would focus solely on carjackings, among other steps.
He argued that the city’s current budget, a plan that’s created by the mayor and approved by the council, hadn’t put enough funding towards addressing the crime issue.
Council members “control the budget, and the resources to fight crime are always budget issues,” Morrell said. “And if you are not spending the money to figure out how to deal with rampant, violent gun crime, what you’re saying to the public is, ‘It’s not a priority.'”
Qualifying for the at-large council race and other fall elections in New Orleans opens Wednesday, and the citywide campaign between Morrell and City Council members Kristen Gisleson Palmer and Jared Brossett is expected to be among the most closely contested.
Palmer dismissed Morrell’s plan in a statement through a spokesperson Monday, saying that the former state senator did little to help New Orleans address crime during his 14 years in the Louisiana Legislature.
Kristin Gisleson Palmer
“The Morrell family business is politics. They have a lot of practice releasing these kind of fluff reports that use a lot of words but don’t say much,” she said.
Morrell’s father, Arthur Morrell, has served as Clerk of Criminal District Court since 2006 after serving in the state Legislature. JP Morrell’s mother, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, served on the City Council for almost a decade.
Brossett called the plan “more of the same rhetoric” often heard from politicians who are unwilling to take a tough stand on criminals. He promised to release a plan in coming weeks “that establishes a well-functioning criminal justice system that is focused on restoring order and protecting every person’s life and property.”
Morrell pointed out that he is the only candidate thus far that has announced a crime plan, and said that he’ll be releasing several documents over the coming weeks that will serve as blueprints for his first term if he is elected.
One of his chief goals, he said, is to help create a more active council, one that uses its power over the municipal purse strings to influence city policy on a broader scale than has been done in recent years.
Morrell’s focus on crime to kick off his policy proposals comes as the issue is increasingly on the minds of city voters. Three-quarters of respondents to a recent survey from the New Orleans Crime Commission cited crime as among their top concerns.
As of mid-June, there were 240 carjackings investigated in the city over the past 12 months, according to a Times-Picayune analysis. That’s 160% higher than the average annual number of carjacking investigations over the past decade.
One of his proposals included working with other council members to fund special units within NOPD and the New Orleans District Attorney’s office that could help stop adult ringleaders of juvenile crimes, in addition to pushing for revised state laws that would harshly penalize those offenders.
He also called for re-creating the police department’s TIGER teams to focus on carjackings. The hybrid investigative-tactical units were created in 2016 to respond to a spike in armed robberies. NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson disbanded them last year, part of a reorganization that created new units to focus on homicides, shootings, armed robberies and other crimes.
The NOPD said in April that it is working with the DA’s office on a plan to target car burglars and carjackings.
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Morrell said he would work to provide more young people with jobs to help them avoid criminal activity, and ask police to present retention data regularly to the council, so that members can recommend steps to recruit and keep new officers. Morrell would also direct the city’s Civil Service Commission to give NOPD more leeway on hiring officers to help bolster the force’s numbers.
Read the full crime plan, here and below:
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