Cantrell tells national TV audience New Orleans’ murder rate on ‘decline,’ recall effort not a concern

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – Mayor LaToya Cantrell claimed New Orleans’ murder rate and police officer attrition were on the “decline” and expressed little concern Sunday (Jan. 22) about the effort to trigger a recall election against her, during a nationally televised interview on “Face The Nation.”

Cantrell appeared on the CBS show hosted by Margaret Brennan as part of a panel with fellow mayors from Miami, Atlanta and Mesa, Ariz. The guests were in Washington DC for last week’s United States Conference of Mayors that concluded Friday.

Cantrell became the focus of Brennan’s questions for about 3 1/2 minutes of the 12-minute segment. Here are the questions she faced and the answers she provided:

Q: “President Biden said, ‘It’s not about defunding the police, it’s about restraining the police.’ I wonder if you agree with that. I know you have had a problem in New Orleans with not having enough police officers – less than 1,000 for 300,000 people.”

Cantrell: “It’s about retention and it’s also about recruitment. Because of the second tranche of the American Rescue Plan dollars coming our way with direct allocation, ooh, it has really been a lifeline. We’re putting $80 million in public safety across the board. One of the biggest, in terms of a retention and incentive package to retain. We see it slowing down. Attrition is declining. Our officers are staying. And so we just have to continue to provide the tools and resources that our officers need to respond. Also, in terms of the capacity issue you mentioned, I’ve had to put all commissioned officers that were in Special Ops – over 75 – back on the street, because my officers were saying, ‘Hey, we need help out here.’ So I have to protect my officers so they can protect my city. And so, we’re seeing real results, in regards to our redeployment strategy on the ground.”

Q: New Orleans has the highest per-capita murder rate of any major city. Why?

Cantrell: “Why, is because, one, dealing with COVID-19, violence, everyone has guns, the ability or the lack of the ability to resolve a conflict without reaching and pulling a gun. Also, as it relates to accountability. You know, low-lining offences, when they don’t get bail or they’re not restrained, then we’re just seeing how these crimes escalate. People need to be held accountable, across the board. And we’re seeing, um, uh, results, I would say. We’re moving in the right direction. But I tell you, we definitely need to hold people accountable. You can’t fight crime just focusing on the police. It’s about a system – a criminal justice system. It’s about the DA, your judges and it’s about building in accountability. Everybody needs to be held accountable. And that’s how we’re focusing on it, holistic approach, in the City of New Orleans. Definitely, uh, seeing a decline. Moving in the right direction.”

Q: This issue of crime in your city is causing a lot of political problems, and you are the target of a recall drive that’s under way right now. A number of allegations against you, as well, in regard to financial improprieties. How much of the responsibility with the crime issue do you personally take?

Cantrell: “Well, first of all, it is the New Orleans Police Department that is absolutely under my authority. And with that, making sure I’m not only listening to my officers, but getting them the resources that they need to fight crime. And that is exactly what we’re seeing on the ground. The incentive packages, retaining officers, as well as recruitment, and that’s the focus.”

Q: And you believe you’ll survive this recall effort?

Cantrell: “Well, based on what I see, is that the residents of my city definitely appreciate continuity in leadership. And so, with that, that speaks to keeping progress moving and alive, under my leadership. Second elected twice in the city – 61 percent the first time, 65 percent the second time. Continuity in leadership is what I’m seeing by my people.”

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