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Iberville:No Murders No News
by mike howells Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010 at 5:19 AM 504-587-0080

A press conference highlighting that the Iberville public housing development went twelve months without a murder met with a corporate news blackout. An examination of murder and shooting statistics since 2008 indicate that, media coverage aside, Iberville is by no means a local hotbed of violent crime. These same statistics reveal that criminal violence is actually more pervasive in the high income, privately owned French Quarter than the low-income publicly owned Iberville housing development. This fact does not stop the local corporate media from identifying murders and shootings in Iberville even when these crimes happen in other neighborhoods.

Iberville Development: No Murders, No News!
By Mike Howells

With the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaching the struggle to defend and expand public housing in New Orleans continues. As part of that effort the local public housing support group C3/Hands Off Ibervill held a press conference on August 3rd highlighting the Iberville public housing development’s status as one of the few murder free neighborhoods in New Orleans over the last year. The press conference was held on the date of the national Night Out Against Crime. The press conference was met with a corporate news blackout. The refusal of the corporate news to cover the Iberville press conference is perfectly in line with the longstanding media practice of nurturing an image of Iberville as a spawning ground for criminal violence. The general drift of this news coverage reinforces the widely held view of the public housing complex as a hothouse for violent crime in dangerously close proximity to the French Quarter. Recent crime statistics, however, contradict the widely disseminated view that Iberville is one of New Orleans’s ultra-violent neighborhoods.

The absence of the local press is not due to a lack of notification or media interest in violent crime in the Iberville Housing Development The news blackout happened even though press releases were forwarded the day before the event by organizers to the city desk of the Times Picayune and the news rooms of WWL 4, WDSU6, WVUE 8 and WGNO 26 on August 2nd. These news outlets devoted coverage to neighborhood based Night Out Against Crime in previous years and 2010. And the post-Katrina murders that did occur in Iberville also received media coverage. For example, the Times Picayune, the New Orleans paper of record, carried articles on each of the three murders in the public housing complex in 2008. These same news sources ignored the message the Iberville is a murder free neighborhood. And the fact that Iberville went murder free in a city with the nation’s highest murder rate did not convince the TP and company of the newsworthiness of this development. The New Orleans media is clearly in no hurry to highlight a public housing success story in the midst of the city’s murder epidemic.

A dearth of murders and shootings in Iberville did not stop the corporate news from linking the public housing development to violent crime. A WWL news report broadcast on August 18, 2010 described Iberville as a “hotspot” for crime. The same report makes no mention that the neighborhood went murder free the twelve preceding months. A September 23, 2009 article in the TP put Iberville in the headline of a piece covering a non-fatal shooting that transpired in another neighborhood, the Sixth Ward. And the headline of another TP article, dated October 28, 2009, identified Iberville as the site of a murder on Bienville and North Derbigny. This intersection is actually located in another neighborhood. Even when Iberville is free of murders and shootings the corporate media insists that the neighborhood is experiencing murders and shootings.

The widely disseminated view that Iberville is the French Quarter’s ultra-violent neighbor is contradicted by crime statistics. From January 2008 through July 2010 New Orleans suffered 443 murders. Iberville was the scene of 6 of those murders. This accounts for 1.3% of the city’s murders. And the widely disseminated view that Iberville is a publicly subsidized killing field located dangerously close to the French Quarter does not withstand an examination of murder and shooting statistics. During the period mentioned above the French Quarter, like Iberville, recorded 6 murders. On the matter of shootings in this period Iberville registered far fewer than the city’s oldest neighborhood. A total of 10 people were shot in Iberville..In the city’s oldest neighborhood 21 people were shot. Judging from these figures the high income, privately owned French Quarter is actually a greater source of criminal violence in New Orleans than the low-income, publicly owned Iberville Housing Development!

The media image of Iberville as a haven for criminal violence serves the agenda of the cabal of politicians and real estate developers determined to eliminate public housing from the landscape of post-Katrina New Orleans. HUD responded to the epoch shortage of affordable housing following the storm by first closing and then demolishing 5,000 of the city’s 7,000 public housing apartments. The vast majority of the demolished apartments came out of the storm and flooding in habitable or easily made habitable condition. When HUD finally began demolition of these public housing apartments in late 2007 the size of the local homeless population was double that of the local homeless population in 2005. As of this writing, New Orleans has the highest per-capita rate of homelessness of any city in the nation. This bleak situation did not prevent the Housing Authority of New Orleans from announcing in August that it will seek HUD funding to radically downsize the number of public housing units at Iberville.

No persons were murdered or shot in the Iberville Housing Development during the twelve months that preceded the 2010 Night Out Against Crime. This reality clashes with the media supported image of Iberville as a breeding ground for criminal violence. This caricature of Iberville implicitly sends the message that government support for the neighborhood amounts to taxpayers subsidizing violent crime. This is a false message. Iberville is not a hot house for violent crime. And this is an inconvenient truth for the news establishment of the Crescent City.

Crime Statistics

Iberville/ French Quarter Murders and Shootings. #1

Murders Shootings
2010 Ib. 0 0 #2
FQ. 1 1

2009 Ib. 3 3
FQ. 4 7

2008 Ib. 3 6
FQ 1 13

Totals Ib. 6 9
FQ. 6 21

New Orleans Murders #3

2010 90

2009 174

2008 179

Total 443

#1 From January 1, 2008 through August 3, 2010.
Sources examined: Online reports from WWWL4,
WDSU6, WVUE8, WGNO26,; and
the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

#2 Period surveyed for 2010 ends August 3, 2010.

#3 From January 1, 2008 through July 2010.
Sources: New Orleans Police Department,
Administrative and Support Bureau for 2008 and 2009
murder statistics. The murder stat for 2010 is 58% of
the 2009 murder total. NOPD murder totals for 2010
through July were not available online.

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