But in the meantime...
1) To continue to alert the residents of the French Quarter, Marigny Triangle and CBD on a timely basis of crimes occurring around them, we are going to need the help of those residents. While it was convenient and accurate to get that information from the 8th District, we will now have to ask everyone in the neighborhood to be a journalist of sorts.
Here's the information we need:
- What: The kind of crime (armed robbery, assault, pursesnatching, etc.) and a little detail.
- Who: We don't need the victim's name, but it helps to know their age, sex, race, and where they live (the block is close enough).
- Where: The street and block, and nearest intersection.
- When: The day, date, and time. Just saying "one day last week" is not very helpful. And if you say "Friday night", make sure it was Friday before midnight, and not actually Saturday at 1 or 2 a.m., for instance.
- How: This might be the most important bit of information for your neighbors trying to avoid becoming victims. The more detail you can give here, the better. How many perpetrators were there? Was the perpetrator on foot, or was he lurching in a doorway, or did he jump out of a car? Did he sneak up behind the victim or confront them from the front? What sort of weapon did he have? A knife? A gun? Chrome-plated or black? Revolver or automatic? What did the perpetrator say? How did he get away, what direction?
- Another who: What did the perpetrator look like? (See the special report "Describing a perp" on our website.) To know what a perpetrator looks like helps you avoid someone fitting that description. And if the bad guy is ever going to be caught, it's crucial.
One other thing: You must give your name along with the information. There is no reason to remain anonymous. We will NOT print your name, but we want to know the source of any information that we do print. There's something about putting your name on information that makes you more careful about what you do report. My name's on every NOcrimeline report for that reason.
2) We will keep trying to find out just what Maj. Edwin Hosli's gripe is. The 8th District commander welcomed the proposal for the NOcrimeline newsletter enthusiastically in March, 2007 and didn't hesitate to immediately begin emailing crime maps and reports of crimes to us daily.
When Maj. Hosli was queried as to why, he said he didn't like the "editorializing" NOcrimeline was doing. The only example he gave was our report from a subscriber who said that an out-of-town guest of hers had a rude encounter with a Vietnamese cop in the Quarter. Maj. Hosli said no Vietnamese officers are assigned to the 8th and he was distressed at the implication one of his officers was rude.
Other than that--which was hardly an editorial comment--he mentioned nothing. From the very beginning of NOcrimeline, we've commented--and editorialized--on events and procedures in the 8th. Whenever Maj. Hosli, or his second in command, Lt. Eddie Selby, felt we were in error or off-base, they didn't hesitate to pick up the phone and call me. If we were in error, we corrected it. If we had a difference of opinion, we discussed it and came away enlightened.
Why Maj. Hosli now uses "editorializing" as an excuse not to tell residents of his district what's happening beats me. (He has replied to some subscribers who've complained that he would email them directly with reports of crimes. Hope he gets all almost-1,000 subscribers. Email him at Ehosli@cityofno.com to get on his list.)
Somehow he must realize that we're on the same side--it's the criminals who are the bad guys.
3) Long-term we'd like to work with Chief Warren Riley on a city-wide distribution of crime information, not only to residents of the 8th District but to citizens in all 8 NOPD districts.
A NOcrimeline subscriber emailed Chief Riley in January when the report issue first came up that, "The 8th District model works. Maybe it's not perfect, but for now it gets folks involved. Use it as a best of breed model for now."
Chief Riley replied, "The 8th was a pilot that was working very well. We plan to extend it city wide once we are comfortable with it." I don't like the past tense in the first sentence, but maybe there's hope in working with Chief Riley in releasing this information to the public.
4) Failing to persuade Maj. Hosli or his boss, Chief Riley, to supply crime information on a regular and timely basis may require legal action. Filing a freedom-of-information request for each tidbit of information is not feasible. The greater goal would be to have them ruled in violation of state statutes and a court to order all public records to be made available on a regular and timely basis.
The Times-Picayune seemed all hot to pursue this with their big time, high-paid lawyers back in January. Now the Big City Daily seems content with whatever scraps the NOPD throws them.
Hang on for the ride: This is not my first rodeo, buckaroos. I've fought for freedom of information a number of times before in a number of towns. I've endured a number of tactics, including being shot at.
As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome NOcrimeline@gmail.com.