Monday, June 26, 2006
It's not Iraq, but it's no cakewalk
It is midnight when I meet Sgt. Kennery Foster on a New Orleans street. Sweat has beaded on his face, nearly covering it.

It's not the threat of violence that makes this soldier uncomfortable; it's the city's unrelenting, muggy heat. After all, it takes a lot to scare Sgt. Foster, a Louisiana National Guardsman who recently did a yearlong tour in Iraq.

We're in the city's fifth district, and just a few minutes into our pleasantries there's an unmistakable "Pop, pop, pop, pop..." I don't know how many shots were fired, but there were a lot.

Foster and two other soldiers exchange glances, wait, listen, then go on with the discussion.

"That was gunfire," I said.

Foster says he and other troops here have developed a "sixth sense." No screaming, no calls cracking over the radio. They call in a helicopter with infared capabilities and begin looking for the bad guy.

It's no secret New Orleans is once again developing a nasty crime problem.

It all came to a head 10 or so days ago, when five teens were brutally murdered sitting in an SUV in a sketchy area of the city at four in the morning. This prompted Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco to dispatch 300 Louisiana National Guard troops to the city at the request of Mayor Ray Nagin.

Sgt. Foster is from Lafayette, not terribly far from the Crescent City, and he professes to love Louisiana and the city of New Orleans.

While we are out for a few hours in the wee hours of the morning, people hanging out of windows of cars going to and from a late night club are thanking the sergeant for being here.

The truth is that Sgt. Foster is surprised the city needs military muscle nearly 10 months after Hurricane Katrina.

A year in Iraq, a few months with his family, and he's back on patrol. It's not Iraq, but it's not a cakewalk either, as a short burst of gunfire proved on his third night on patrol, a night when his "sixth sense" was put to the test in the battle to take back the nighttime streets of New Orleans.
Posted By Sean Callebs, CNN Correspondent: 5:12 PM ET
  13 Comments
I don't believe that the sudden spike in New Orleans' crime rate should come as a surprise. We were well on our way to being one of the most dangerous cities in the country before Katrina hit. We have all the critical signs - a bad school systems, a poorly run government and the majority of the population that lives at or below the poverty level. And since Nagin has decided that the NOPD would be more useful driving around picking up children that break curfew and arresting law abiding citizens for expired brake tags and burned out headlights, the National Guard is now desperately needed.

We are very happy to have the National Guard in New Orleans. It is an unfortunate fact that we need to depend on them but for them we are thankful.
Posted By Anonymous Gretchen Schneider, New Orleans LA : 6:04 PM ET
This does not surprise me. Unfortunately, some people have no love or respect for their home.
Even though Katrina hit, it did not change the heart of all the people who reside in the city. Sgt. Foster is one of the good guys who really cares. Louisiana is just one of a few cities experiencing high crime.
This sad episode in the city of Louisiana, reminds me of the reaction New York City experienced during a number of blackouts. Instead of the people banning together to protect their surroundings, they looted and behaved in a demeaning manner. Not all did this of course, but it goes to show that not all people want good in their life. Some people are bent on destruction any way they can do it. I hope the city recovers. I would like more information on the murders of these young men, this is sad indeed.
Posted By Anonymous Nancy Walker, Rocklin, California : 6:10 PM ET
I gotta admit that I didn't understand Rummy's BRAC realignment plan, but now it has become clearer. Desert training on the Southern Border, urban warfare in the NOLA, not to mention the fires, floods, public transportation and famines. I'd suggest that we bypass FEMA for the next major national disaster and get the Guard QM Co on the job with the first warning.

Never fear, to save the day, the National Guard is on its way. Thanks to the 'weekend warriors'--you know those folks who get a couple of weekends off occassionally.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista, ar : 6:17 PM ET
Has it come a time when we must understand our own big cities before we move to correct others. I am not an issoicalation is, but we have enough problems to correct without going beyond our borders.
Posted By Anonymous BH, Wilton, NH : 6:22 PM ET
I am not suprised that the National Guard is out there. A friend of mine (she is a medical examiner) was still going to LA to help ID bodies months after the storm. She has said that most of the area hit by the hurricane is still a mess and she thinks there may still be bodies buried under the debris that is still there.

I think it will be at least another year before New Orleans and its surrounding areas get back to at least half of what it used to be.
Posted By Anonymous Genevieve Matthews, El Paso, TX : 6:25 PM ET
Yes far too much Jollie, she did not make a good personal appearance in the interviews, was trying to make herself look glamourous, and just a bad deal. People who really want to help others generally do so without bringing publicity to themselves. I am part of a local outreach food bank and we give away 200 to 300 boxes of food every month, but we don't call attention to ourselves in the local paper. YEah I know her deal was bigger--but it stinks the way it was portrayaed.
Posted By Anonymous Tom Curtis, McAlester, Ok : 7:37 PM ET
I think it is a shame that the NOPD has asked for help from the national guard. I see it as an admission of incompetance on the part of Chief Warren Riley. As I've posted before, the city's population is less than half and the police have lost only a couple hundred. Police should be tripping over each other, especially since the city's footprint is greatly reduced.

When the city was fully populated and crime was high, who cared? It's the different demographic, white and largely wealthier, that's now getting all the attention and pampering. This makes me sick. How unfair!

The National Guard presence is unnecessary. Nagin and Riley, DO YOUR JOBS!!!!
Posted By Anonymous Paige Blache., New Orleanian in Austin : 10:39 PM ET
Hi Sean,
I am glad the Louisiana National Guard has been called up to help New Orleans..The residents have been through so much horror already..I hope it brings the people much needed safety and the piece of mind that brings..My thoughts and Prayers are still with the Gulf Coast..Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton,Calif. : 11:09 PM ET
We need to study this woman, angelina...the reason being that the media is treating her as if she is the 'first' woman who has ever given birth...which gives us pause as to figure out how the rest of us mortals ever got here.
Posted By Anonymous lou mendez, dallas,tx : 7:27 AM ET
I listened to the interview. I am glad that CNN is shining light on the refugees of the world. Americans are ignorant about the world outside their borders, it is admirable to show the reality outside the USA. Shame on the NY Times! It is wrong to criticize a sincere effort to help people in such anguished circumstances.
Posted By Anonymous jackie, Rehoboth, Ma. : 8:31 AM ET
Hire Rudy Gulliani as a consultant! How is it that he was able to curb violence and reduce crime in a city as populous as NYC, but the local leadership in N.O. can't even handle a sparse city such as this. Did they cut the police officer-to-citizen ratio since September?
Posted By Anonymous xtina - Chicago IL : 3:46 PM ET
Lift the residency rule for cops in the city of New Orleans. Reorganize the police force, so that the criminals are in fear of these guys. Get rid of Warren Riley and the rest of the cronies who are just waiting for their pension. If you want things to change, overhaul from the top down with an attitude of "we are not going to take it. Like it, lump it, or leave, criminals!"
Posted By Anonymous Michelle, New Orleans, LA : 5:43 PM ET
You had the chance to turn New Orleans Around with a municipal election. But, you stuck with the status quo.
Posted By Anonymous Ron Rule, NY, NY : 2:30 PM ET
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