BAYHAM: The “Broken Statue” Mentality And The Bienville Street Muggings

Put aside, for a moment, the horrific videotaped beating and mugging of two tourists from Boston on Bienville Street in the French Quarter last weekend. Thus far in 2017, 92 people were murdered in New Orleans.

We are not at the end of the halfway point of the year and at the current pace, Orleans Parish’s 2017 death toll will exceed last year’s body count of 175.

Yet in the midst of this uptick in violent crime, Mayor Mitch Landrieu last month had the temerity to say in a podcast interview with the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart that, “the monuments were murder.”

What an insensitive and ridiculous statement to make in light of the nightly bloodlettings and weekly funeral services for increasing casualties of the city’s culture of violence that the nationally ambitious mayor has tried to paper over.

The mayor carps about “old lingering wounds” from a war that was fought 150 years ago while ignoring the actual gunshot wounds being treated in emergency rooms stemming from the real war playing out on the city’s bloodstained streets.

Though the incident was not a murder, the recent mugging of two Unitarian Universalist Association conference attendees in the French Quarter has stunned the New Orleans area, in part because of the location and time, but mostly because of the full brutality of the crime was captured on a video camera.

The pair were assaulted at 208 Bienville Street, near the Mississippi River and just a block away from the Westin Hotel, the primary French Quarter parking lots, and Decatur Street.

There are always people and vehicles running through the area so the chances of any robbery being witnessed and/or broken up are high.

This isn’t an area known for being particularly unsafe, in part because there are fewer outlets for perps to escape or places to hide after committing a crime.

Yet four young men brazenly attacked the tourists, striking one with a vicious blow the back of the head and locking the other in a choke hold as his pockets were forcibly emptied.

As the blood began to pool around the head of the victim who crumpled on to the brick banquette, one of the jackals sprints back up the block 24 seconds later to inexplicably drag his body a bit before scampering back to his retreating pack.

This assault occurred at 9 PM, when French Quarter visitation is still building up.

That a group of people would be so bold to commit this crime in a place and time with a great deal of pedestrian and vehicular traffic is as stunning as the footage itself.  That they did it in the city’s tourism hub is astonishing.

These criminals had no fear of consequences.

They saw what they wanted to do, and viciously pulled it off for the reward of a handful of cash and two smart phones, the worth of one’s humanity on the mean streets of New Orleans.

That they were later apprehended after the ringleader turned himself in provides little solace.

DeJuan Paul, Joshua Simmons, Rashaad Piper, and Nicholas Polgowski, the Bienville Street muggers, aren’t special.

And before the sun sets tomorrow their spots in the violent crime police blotter will be occupied by some other name. Or names.  And likely those individuals will be in the same 18-21 age range as the Bienville Street criminals.

In addition to murder, Mayor Landrieu has previously claimed the Confederate statues led to mass migration from the city (obviously the heart of the decades of flight to the suburbs, right?), white supremacy (something lost on the previous four black mayors), and economic racism (no need to add anything here).

Whatever societal benefits the “medicine showman” of a mayor believed would come with the removal of the statues of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and PGT Beauregard have not manifested.  And they never will as the whole episode was a self-serving farce.

The monument preservationists knew it.  So has any objective person who has not suspended reality for the sake of advancing the progressive political agenda.

And let me add another group not buying it: the city’s criminal element.

If you are someone who engages in violent crime and you see the mayor of the city not focusing his resources on stopping you but on taking down statues, you’re not going to take any city authority very seriously.

Nobody fears the absurd. Clearly not on Bienville Street.

And when you see people getting away with blatant acts of vandalism across the city without any arrests being made, what kind of message does that send to someone who sees crime as a normal way of life?

In New York, Rudy Giuliani cleaned up what had devolved into a cesspool of crime and blight. You’d have to watch movies and tv shows made in the 1970s and 1980s to comprehend what America’s greatest city used to be.  Giuliani was an advocate of the “Broken Windows” theory of controlling crime, that being crime begets more crime, whether it be vandalism or theft.

Thus if you arrest people for minor criminal acts, such as jumping subway turnstiles, and you’re likely to prevent bigger crimes from happening.

In contrast, New Orleans has followed the “broken statue” theory as vandalism of historic monuments was not just tolerated but was practically encouraged by the city government.  And an unintended audience was taking notes and getting froggy.

It’s not just the guys waving the Confederate flags on Jefferson David Parkway who do not respect the city authorities.  It’s also the recidivist with his face obscured by a bandana breaking into a car in Carrollton and the teenager in the hoodie rolling tourists in the Vieux Carre.

For a city that depends so much on tourism, New Orleans literally cannot afford to continue down this path.

And it’s not going to change anytime soon until the city gets a city council and mayor more concerned with putting away murderers and thugs instead of Confederate statues.

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