August 10, 2007
Mayor Ray Nagin said that he worries that slayings in the city make it seem dangerous but that the news of such crimes "keeps the New Orleans brand out there."
In a city where the tourism industry is the lifeblood of a fragile economy, the wave of violence threatens to derail efforts to bring visitors and former residents back. Yet Nagin, at a bricklaying ceremony Thursday, told reporters it's a "two-edged sword."
"It's not good for us, but it also keeps the New Orleans brand out there, and it keeps people thinking about our needs and what we need to bring this community back," he said. "Sure it hurts, but we have to keep working every day to make the city better."
Anti-violence activist Baty Landis called Nagin's remarks "stunningly insensitive."
The city has recorded at least 117 murders this year. This week, two brothers suspected in 14 murders were found shot to death.
"New Orleans is not a brand, it's a city," said Landis, whose group SilenceIsViolence marched on City Hall in January in response to a rash of violent crime. "We're not products. We're people with lives, some of which are being taken by other people."
Nagin said at the Thursday ceremony marking construction of a new community center that the brothers' deaths are "symptomatic of the things we've been struggling with since Katrina and really before Katrina.
"Some of these guys are so violent that it is hard for witnesses to come forward, and they get involved in repeat criminal activities," the mayor added. "So it is unfortunate that they had to die, but it did kind of end the cycle that we were struggling with."
A Nagin spokeswoman did not immediately return a message Friday. After he was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2006, Nagin made safety a top priority. He has supported pay raises for police and rebuilding the depleted officer corps. Still, National Guard soldiers continue to patrol less-populated parts of the city and police continue to work out of trailers while waiting for storm-damaged buildings to be rebuilt.