More attacks in the French Quarter, with increased severity and frequency, have caused more eyes of scrutiny to be cast on the ‘Big Easy.’
New Orleans has always been the focal point of culture in Louisiana, making it the tourism hotspot. Similar to the gumbo cooked in hot pots all over the south, New Orleans brings a variety of pieces to the puzzle to make something very unique.
It’s a big economic driver in a state that is currently in the beginning stages of a financial crisis, lead by an individual who believes that the good citizens of this state are just “one tax away from prosperity.”
Opinions of New Orleans and its culture vary far and wide - from absolute infatuation to complete disgust. But, regardless of your opinion, the black and white bottom line doesn’t lie - the Big Easy leads the way for the Louisiana tourism industry - an industry which generated nearly $850 million in tax revenue in 2015.
The Louisiana State Budget sits just under $30 billion
The tourism industry is a huge employer - both directly and indirectly - in Louisiana as well.
So, a decline in tourism is a decline for Louisiana, and right now the Bayou State cannot afford to lose any more revenue.
Recently, a criminologist from LSU stated that the most recent slew of attacks in the Quarter represent a ‘tipping point’ in the effect violent crime has on an outside view of New Orleans.
The criminologist, Dr. Peter Scharf, says that the “average guy on the street” is saying “If you can’t protect 208 Bienville Street, what can you protect?”
Its a powerful statement, to be sure, as 208 Bienville is part of a walkway to public parking, and not far from many popular and well-known tourism spots - including Cafe Du Monde and Jackson Square.
In response to that particular attack, Louisiana State Police - which is under new leadership - stated that their patrols of the area will remain the same or increase, mostly due to a manpower shortage at the New Orleans Police Department.
Anyone who’s gone to New Orleans any time over the past few decades knows to be careful in certain parts of town, and to avoid others completely - and many of those people would suggest that the fact that those situations have been left unattended is the root cause of this problem.
The logic there is sound, as anyone who has been to New Orleans recently can attest that, just to the north of the Quarter and right past I-10 on the west, the living conditions are rather deplorable - making hapless visitors in the Quarter low-lying fruit for those who need to make ends meet.
Even still, will increased patrols help? Will bringing in extra state police open gaps for crime elsewhere, as Dr. Scharf suggests?
Perhaps the answer to both questions is yes, then what? How long before those folks who need money hit another barrier, and decide to take crime to other parts of New Orleans?
New leadership is needed in New Orleans, that much is true, but the current situation is also a lesson in why the state budget can cannot continue to be kicked; why festering problems must be addressed, whether they are difficult or not; and why you cannot “tax into prosperity” one of the poorest populations in the United States.
Are there rich people in Louisiana? Absolutely. Well-off people? Definitely. Is there also a large population of lower-middle class and lower class people who cannot absorb more taxes, and will use crime to make ends meet? Especially when new industry uses technology instead of hard labor? You bet.
The health of a state’s economy affects all, in one way or another, and the rife of crime in the French Quarter represents a tipping point for crime in New Orleans it’s true, but it also represents a tipping point for the state. What happens when Louisiana’s second-leading industry takes a massive hit because New Orleans is no longer considered “safe?”
Time will tell.