While crime was plummeting throughout the country, last year New Orleans experienced a surge — rapes up 39 percent and armed robberies up 37 percent.
Having reduced its police force by 500 officers due to budget problems, the Big Easy called in Louisiana State Troopers to assist a force “historically mired in corruption.” Yet, there was scant progress in keeping citizens safe.
Then crooks broke into Sidney Torrez’s home and Torrez, known as the “trash king” because he made a fortune hauling trash out of the city after Hurricane Katrina, responded with a $100,000 television ad campaign. “The French Quarter is under siege by criminals,” his TV spot declared; it encouraged citizens to “hold the administration accountable.”
Mayor Mitch Landrieu wasn’t pleased, shooting back that, “If it’s so easy, maybe [Torrez] should just take some of that money and do it himself.”
So, Torrez did, teaming up with Bob Simms, a retired aerospace engineer.
In no time, they developed a downloadable app for smartphones, allowing folks to contact police much like we use Uber to contact a car ride. Torrez donated $500,000 and the Batman and Robin-esque duo hired off-duty policemen outfitted with Polaris golf carts to patrol the French Quarter, the city’s “golden goose.”
Other private donations arrived to support the effort. In just months, crime dropped 45 percent in the Quarter. Now the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau is paying the monthly cost.
Torrez notes that the effort allows “the community a way to self-police,” adding, “I think it can work anywhere.”
“It’s not rocket science,” says Bob Simms . . . the former rocket scientist.
It’s citizen-led government.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.