A few weeks back, New Orleans City Business reported that NOPD officers had begun randomly checking car doors, locking unlocked cars, and leaving notes behind, either saying they had locked the door, or congratulating citizens on locking their own doors.
Clearly, this new policy was an attempt by the nation's most violent and corrupt police department to improve their image. But for many residents, the reaction was not positive. “Not only is it a violation of your basic right to privacy, and not only do they not have the right to open your car without probable cause or permission, but what if they lock you out of your own car? How do they know you didn’t leave your car unlocked for a very good reason?” commented ACLU of Louisiana director Marjorie Esman to reporter Richard Webster.
“What if I run inside and leave my keys in my car and somebody walks by and locks it? Is NOPD going to pay for Pop-A-Lock to come open it up?” asked Irish Channel resident Molly Oehmichen. “Yeah, we have a lot of car burglaries and it’s important that they monitor that activity but personally going car to car to check if they’re locked seems like a waste of time. I’d rather they were out there gathering and processing evidence so they can actually prosecute people who are committing these crimes.”
Despite the concerns voiced by the ACLU and others, it appears the NOPD is continuing in this direction. A press release from the NOPD, released today, declares that the NOPD has started something called Operation Force, where they are knocking on doors across the city. We'll see if this new initiative makes the NOPD seem like friendly neighbors, or like stalkers. Given the department's recent history, we believe it will take major changes for the department to change its reputation, and we suspect stunts like this will only continue to alienate residents.
Excerpts from NOPD press release:
NOPD's Operation Force In Full Swing
Police Officers Make More Than 10,000 House Calls In New Orleans Area
(August 16, 2011) - As of this week, NOPD police officers have knocked on more than 10,000 front doors in New Orleans neighborhoods and spoken with residents about how they can better protect their cars, their homes and most importantly, themselves.
Operation Force kicked off in the latter part of June. It involves officers in every district working some overtime hours in the evening, educating residents about how to make their neighborhoods safer.
Here are some of the numbers so far:
Citizen Visits by Officers: 10,420
Crimestoppers Literature Distributed: 13,554
Vehicle Report Cards Issued: 5,246
Hours Officers Have Spent Walking: 2,019
Superintendent Serpas said, “Besides Operation Force being a way for officers to get valuable information to residents, it’s also an icebreaker to get our officers meeting and talking with residents. Forming a trusting relationship with the people of New Orleans is one of this department’s top goals, and we want to thank residents for being so welcoming and receptive to our officers when they knock at the front door. “
The New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation has given $77,000 to the “Operation Force” effort. The New Orleans Crime Coalition and the Business Council of New Orleans and River Region also helped to make this program possible. The NOPD matched that amount- also dedicating $77,000 to the program, so that it can be sustained for 14 weeks during the summer. The money is primarily paying for officers working some overtime hours, 3 days a week to make this campaign effective throughout the city.
Photo by Abdul Aziz.