NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – The Criminal Justice Committee met Wednesday to find solutions for what they’re calling a crime crisis.
The meeting lasted several hours with a range of topics up for discussion but each with the same theme: “how to address violent crime involving juveniles.”
State Representative Jason Hughes and Councilman At-Large JP Morrell are working on a bill to expand the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO, so it can be a tool for police, the multi-agency gang unit and district attorney.
“We can capture those adults who are involving children in crime because until you deal with the adults, if you pick up two, three, four kids and you send them to [Juvenile Justice Intervention Center], that adult will just recruit eight more,” said Councilman At-Large Morrell.
Another bill they’re proposing would order restitution against a parent or legal guardian if a child damages property. In instances where the parent or guardian can’t afford restitution, the bill would require the parent to be part of the judicial process
A spokeswoman for the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, Rachel Gassert, wasn’t completely on board with the proposed legislation.
“There are other ways that we can hold kids accountable that don’t look so much like these enforcement mechanisms that we focus on so much right now,” explained Gassert.
Gassert says more money needs to be invested in vulnerable communities.
“I’m telling you that [juveniles] would not break into cars if they just had jobs, but they can’t always get jobs because they need an ID, and they can’t get IDs because they need a parent to go with them to the Office of Motor Vehicles.”
Councilmembers assured Gassert there would be a balance and reiterated they didn’t believe more policing was the only solution.
“We all recognize there is a crime problem, generally speaking, in the City of New Orleans. And part of solving any problem is a) acknowledging there is a problem, b) the parties that are involved each acknowledging their part in the problem,” said Morrell.
Hughes and Morrell reminded those in the meeting they are still in the draft process, but Hughes says he plans on filing the bill in the 2022 regular legislative session.