NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)— The New Orleans Police Department is under fire for its response to a rape that happened in the French Quarter last month after a witness says she was ignored by an NOPD officer when she called for help.
The woman, who declined to be interviewed due to safety concerns, told WGNO she witnessed a man raping an unconscious woman at the intersection of Royal and Toulouse streets on the night of July 26. Around 11:20 p.m., the witness called 911. According to information from a public records request, the first NOPD unit arrived five minutes later, and that dispatch recorded the witness claimed the suspect walked toward Bourbon Street.
The woman said she left the scene without giving a report and that responding officers didn’t take her seriously — something advocates say may be a trend.
“There’s an ongoing lack of response, action, follow-through and investigation from NOPD, so while I think at STAR, we tend to maybe not feel surprised by this, we are also highly invested in ending sexual violence,” Tanya Rawal with the nonprofit group Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response (STAR) told WGNO’s Jordan Lippincott.
Rawal says she was alerted about the witness’ story because of a social media post about her experience in the French Quarter.
“You know, that’s something for NOPD and other city officials to really realize — that there are more cameras, more microphones, more platforms to speak from,” Rawal explained.
In reference to the incident, New Orleans City Councilman At-Large JP Morrell released a statement:
“The information that has emerged from this story is deeply troubling. Throughout the coverage, one question remains unanswered by NOPD: why did an officer not respond to a rape that was actively occurring a block away when notified by a civilian? Reforms that were recommended to NOPD by the Sexual Violence Response Advisory Committee in 2015 have yet to be implemented, resulting in a severe backlog of unsolved cases. This Council and the public wants to know how many more tragedies must occur before NOPD leadership will begin to take these recommendations seriously.”
WGNO reached out to the NOPD for a response to the allegations and if they were questioning the officer who reportedly refused assistance. The department didn’t answer our questions but said the case remains under investigation. Additionally, we were told detectives are searching for surveillance footage of the incident and that the victim in the investigation is not cooperating.
Rawal believes NOPD owes answers in connection to the incident.
“You know, we’re not in the generation or the era of zero action and zero response,” Rawal said. “Those days are over.”