Historic Mardi Gras Collection at Tulane is Burgled!!

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Historic Comus Invitations

Historic Comus Invitations

Another story for both my blogs, as this sad tale has to do with Mardi Gras crime. Apparently Tulane University hasn’t sought out NOPD for help in solving the robbery. Hundreds of old krewe items, including including invitations, favors, badges and other memorabilia was taken. Tulane University police attended a recent meeting of the Mardi Gras Memorabilia Society to inform members about the theft and to ask for their help.

It has been known for some time that the Tulane Carnival Collection had lax security. Among the more valuable missing items was a 1858 Krewe of Comus ball invitation and admittance card. Comus was formed the year before, making these items extremely rare.

The list of missing memorabilia is more than 40 pages long and includes hundreds of valuable items including a Falstaffian (turn of the century krewe, long gone) dance card; a bunch of REX medals; Elves of Oberon pins; and much more.

Falstaffian Pin From Long Ago

Falstaffian Pin From Long Ago  Image from Nealauction.com 

 

 

Historic Illustration of 1858 Comus Parade

Historic Illustration of 1858 Comus Parade

Rafael Monzon, a long time Mardi Gras memorabilia collector, said the items, as a group, could be worth $250,000 or more. Monzon said entire folders of material are gone, including the 1887 file from Krewe of Proteus, creator of the city’s second oldest parade. He said world of Mardi Gras memorabilia collectors is small, and vintage pieces can sell for hundreds of dollars.

Much of the missing Tulane collection are invitations and paper items, as they don’t take up much space or weight.

On the topic of old Mardi Gras ball favors, I found this wonderful page on Pinterest, it’s by Alaina and Lily Hauver and it’s called Forgotten Mardi Gras Krewes. Here’s the link.

Mardi Gras of the World Series- Mobile, AL!!

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There is only one Mardi Gras in America older than the New Orleans Mardi Gras, and that is Mobile’s, only 144 miles away. Begun by Nicholas Langlois of France in 1703, fifteen years before New Orleans was founded, although today the Crescent City’s celebration is much more widely known. In Mobile, the first capital of French Louisiana (1702), the festival began as a French Catholic tradition, as do Mardi Gras around the world.

Mardi Gras in Mobile has now evolved into a mainstream multi-week celebration across the spectrum of cultures in Mobile, becoming school holidays for the final Monday and Tuesday (some include Wednesday),regardless of religious affiliation. Much the same has happened in New Orleans. In downtown Mobile, there are 38 parades over 3 weeks. Baldwin County has a dozen major parades, and outside of downtown there are several parades as well.

When examining the Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Mardi Gras in Mobile, I’m struck by one huge similarity; both have fascinating histories. New Orleans has its ribald parades, Krewe du Vieux for example, but Mobile doesn’t.

Mobile Mardi Gras

Mobile Mardi Gras

Mobile has a number of strange, historic, and strong Mardi Gras traditions. One of my favorites is Joe Cain Day. Joe Cain is credited with re-starting the Mobile Mardi Gras after the War Between the States. In 1868, Joe Cain costumed as Slacabamorinico, a make believe Chickasaw Chief. The Chickasaw, a legendary fighting force, had never been defeated in battle throughout their history. Cain had been in New Orleans the year before for the Fireman’s Day Parade. The next day was Mardi Gras Day, and Cain was impressed with what he saw. His costume was an indirect insult to the still occupying Union force, since the Chickasaw had always won in battle.

A half dozen former Confederate veterans joined Cain later in the day, riding in a decorated coal wagon playing musical instruments. They became known as the L. C. Minstrel Band, now known as the Lost Cause Minstrels of Mobile.

No day is greater than Joe Cain Day. Cain is honored on the Sunday before Mardi Gras every year with a graveyard procession featuring Cain’s Merry Widows, who dress in 1800s funeral attire and weep and wail for their beloved husband. Once they’ve finished this ritual, the Widows throw black beads and black roses to the crowd and head over to Cain’s original home in the Oakleigh Historic District, where they are invited in for cocktails and bicker over who was his favorite.

In the afternoon, the Mistresses of Joe Cain lead the Joe Cain Procession, also known as the People’s Parade, featuring homemade floats made by groups of local friends, families, businesses, churches, and schools. Lasting all afternoon, it is the longest parade of Carnival, and it draws  in the neighborhood of 150,000 participants and onlookers.

Cain helped to organize the T.D.S. (Tea Drinker’s Society), one of Mobile’s mystic societies, in 1846; however, their banquets were part of Mobile’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, rather than being held on Mardi Gras day. Other groups had developed Mardi Gras parades, but the Civil War had brought them to a halt.

 

Joe Cain as Slacabamorinico

Joe Cain as Slacabamorinico

 

He’s buried in Mobile in the Church Street graveyard. His gravestone says-

Here lies old Joe Cain

The heart and soul of Mardi Gras in Mobile

Joseph Stillwell Cain

Slacabamorinico – Old Slac

From the blog.al.com web site-

In the final Mardi Gras parade, Folly and Death ride the same float. Folly tries to beat death, since Folly is the only one who would try. Mardi Gras is the one time of the year when Folly triumphs over death. Except today, Fat Tuesday.

They ride the first float of the last parade of Carnival, which is presented by Mobile’s oldest and most storied Mardi Gras organization, the Order of Myths. Pulled by mules and illuminated by flambeaux, the float looks like it did generations ago, creating a portal that carries revelers back to the late 19th century. On the float, Folly chases Death around a broken column — what the OOMs refer to as “the broken column of life.”

OOM's Folly Chasing Death

OOM’s Folly Chasing Death

During that cartoonish chase, round and round, Folly beats on Death with three inflated pig bladders, painted gold and tied to a broomstick, emitting loud whacks that can be heard across the parade route. The symbolism couldn’t be more universal, and the message couldn’t be closer to the heart of Carnival. Only Folly would ever try to beat Death, since Death always wins.

Except today, Fat Tuesday.

 

 

 

 

 

Vieux Carre Hair Store!

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Historic Vieux Carre Hair Shop

Historic Vieux Carre Hair Shop

 

I live on the far side of Carrollton, and not far from my house is this business.The Hair Store was started by Euginie Saussaye In 1877. Today the business is run by  4th and 5th generations. Saussaye began the business by making hair pieces by hand for the French Opera House. Saussaye taught his grandson, Herbert Saussaye, the hair goods business. Herbert became known as the most recognized name in the hair goods business in the region.

In the 1950, Herbert opened his own shop in the French Quarter at 805 Royal Street. The business continued to prosper as the hair goods market grew over time. Herbert’s children run the business today, and their children are active the company. The business has diversified, and includes a specialization in theatrical make up, for use in the entertainment industry. Today they also carry a wide variety of wigs, masks, costumes and costume props. In April of 2002, the Hair Store left their French Quarter neighborhood and moved to 8224 Maple Street.

The staff is very knowledgeable and the selection is second to none. You won’t believe some of the make up kits the store sells. James Rizzuto is known in Carnival circles as the Wig Master. A makeup artist for Vieux Carré Hair Shop, he spends Mardi Gras backstage at more than a dozen balls, preparing kings, captains, pages, clowns and everyone in between for their royal presentation.

Here’s a glowing Yelp review of the Hair Store-

It’s a small shop in what looks like the family home. It has a front section with a wide variety of masks, once you step inside the store, you’ll see all your costuming needs from wigs to masks to costumes to make up. I came here specifically for the make up so that’s what I’ll write about the most. 

I was helped by Lynn, one of three workers here, and she was absolutely amazing. She answered all my questions, trialled a few shades for me, and gave me a huge insight into the world of make up. I can’t thank her enough for her assistance with me today.

I ended up walking away with three Mehron foundation sticks, Mehron translucent setting powder, and a powder puff all for just over $40, a steal! I very much so recommend this place to anyone in the area who is after theatrical make up, wigs, masks, and costuming. You will not be disappointed!

Vieux Carre Hair Store Interior

Vieux Carre Hair Store Interior

 

 

Mardi Gras Beads As A New Orleans Pot Hole Solution!

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Mardi Gras Beads Filing New Orleans Pot Holes!

Mardi Gras Beads Filing New Orleans Pot Holes!

Beads as Pot Hole Solution

Beads as Pot Hole Solution

Beads as a Pot Hole Solution

Beads as a Pot Hole Solution

New Orleanians are a very creative lot. Most us have a bag of two of Mardi Gras beads in the closet or attic. Once beads are exposed to the weather for a while, the paint wears off but the beads endure for a long time. Since Hurricane Katrina, the city has had FEMA money to fix a lot of major and minor city streams but so many more haven’t been fixed and are one of the banes of our existence in any older city in America. Combining beads and pot holes makes perfect sense to me. It’s a very quick and somewhat lasting solution.

Mobile, AL Political Cartoon

Mobile, AL Political Cartoon

Political Cartoon from al.com

2015 New Orleans Mardi Gras Wrap Up!

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2015 was my best Mardi Gras in five years. I saw more parades and had more fun. That’s due to better parade company. I’m a parade freak, and if I go to parades with like minded freaks, I’m apt to enjoy myself lots more. 3 years ago I was forced to change my long term parade freak partner and it took me a couple of years to get it right again.

Wednesday, February 12 when Druids and Nyx rolled, I paraded with a special friend of the opposite sex who I hadn’t paraded with before but she told me she was a parade freak. That turned out to be true and a surreal, delightful Mardi Gras parade night was had by both of us.

Claudia G at NYX Parade with friend from Brazil!

Claudia G at NYX Parade with friend from Brazil!

At Zulu I caught 4 coconuts and at REX, which had a different medallion for each float, I caught over half. I do fairly well at the parades although I’m rarely the target demographic because I costume a bit for all parades and I’m active on the parade route, that is I scream Happy Mardi Gras, Throw Me Something, and other similar exhortations. I had a ball at the parades on Fat Tuesday 2015. It was quite cold all day and windy, but the rain held off completely. I biked to Zulu and then biked to REX.

Surviving Fat Tuesday on Rouses’ Cheese Straws

My food situation was well in hand on Lundi Gras, but by Fat Tuesday, all my plans of a delicious spread had fallen apart. I had made a big pot of my special red beans in the crock pot, and bought a high grade of cold cuts, some mini pistolettes, good cheese and tomatoes to make some sandwiches to eat on the go. On my bike I couldn’t carry the container of beans, and I couldn’t find my cold cuts. So off I went on Mardi Gras Day on my bike with a package of Rouse’s cheese straws, some Pepperidge Farm Nantucket cookies, and two small packs of Cheetos. All day I snacked on the cheese straws, which were to die for- deep cheese flavor with just the right amount of heat and spice, plus some vodka and OJ and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Young Parade Goers Costume in Large Numbers

One of the most heartening trends this year was the preponderance of young parade goers who costumed in some respect for all the parades, not just Fat Tuesday. I took the St. Charles streetcar a lot in 2015 for Carnival and every time I got on there were lots and lots of young folks wearing a head piece, mask or other costume part. I realize part of my attraction to Mardi Gras is the make believe and fantasy aspects of the celebration, so I really found all this new costuming very attractive. You can dress up and become anyone or anything your mind and imagination can envision and create. The possibilities are endless.

Adult Dance Troupes Take Center Stage

More and more high flying adult dance troupes have joined in the parading fun. The SirensMuff-A-Lottas610 StompersDisco Amigos, Pussyfooters, Dames de Perlage, Try Athletes, Bearded Oyster Dance Troupe, Rolling Elvi, Organ Grinders, Roux La La, Amelia Earhawts, Kolossos, and the Star Wars themed 501st Legion were just some of the fab groups entertaining the crowd. I have a friend who texted me after a fun night of parading together that she found a Roux La La couzy in her bra when undressing that night. She said it was the perfect testament to a great evening. O.K., maybe she’s more than a friend.

New Orleans' Muff A Lottas

New Orleans’ Muff A Lottas

Mardi Gras Day Father and Son Skeletons

Mardi Gras Day Father and Son Skeletons

Throw Trends

Lighted beads were ubiquitous for the night parades. Proteus lit up the necklace part, not the medallion like everyone else. There were light up pitch forks, blades, styrofoam tubes, and just about anything else a light could be attached to.

LED Foam Sticks

Muses is well known throughout the Mardi Gras universe for their shoe throws. I received my most unusual Muses throw right from a float rider. It was a pack of rice beads with the plastic connectors, but it has a small metal Muses M attached  with the ubiquitous bead/medallion metal connector. What kind of statement was Muses making with these retro beads?

Muses Rice Beads

Muses Rice Beads

Nyx has really come into their own. There were decorated purses coming off the floats in large numbers and many dancing troupes.

360 lenticular cups were thrown by D’Etat, Orpheus, Babylon and Iris. A lenticular lens is an array of magnifying lenses, designed so that when viewed from slightly different angles, different images are magnified.

Fat Tuesday 2015 NoMusicMan

Fat Tuesday 2015 NoMusicMan

Billy B with Storm Trooper

Billy B with Storm Trooper

Parade Route Parties

I attended a number of gatherings along parade routes off of St. Charles and Frenchmen Street. I had a lot of fun and laughs at each and every party. Walking back and forth between the house and the parade is the height parade enjoyment. Some soirees are invitation only, which a security guard checking online invites, but for many others, just showing up is enough to gain entrance. Often the food, booze and crowd is a step above the average New Orleans party- and New Orleans is well known for throwing world class parties.

Proteus in the Daytime!

Hell freezes over! Pigs fly! Since the start of time, or whenever Proteus began parading, whichever came first, Proteus parades at night. Flambeaux carriers only light parades after the sun goes down. Wrong! The start time for Proteus and Orpheus were moved up 75 minutes due to inclement weather considerations, so they rolled in plain, old daylight.

Carnival Flag Photo Essay!!

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I love Mardi Gras flags, the big and the small, the still and the fluttering, the traditional and the trendy. Originally, only Carnival flags were from the oldest krewes, who put the year they were King or Queen on one corner. Everyone else had only one option basically- a generic purple green and gold flag.

Some flags are very exclusive, and can only be flown by the former/current Queens, or Kings and Queens. Others are more egalitarian, allowing all members to exhibit them.

 

Flags 11

Flags 9

 

Flags 1

Flags 13

 

Flags 15

Flags 16

Flags 19Flags 20

Flags 2

Flags 17

Flags 3

Flags 14

Flags 18

Flags 4

 

Flags 6

Flags 12

 

Flags 7

Flags 8

 

Flags 10

Carnival in New Orleans Begins in Earnest Today!!

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When Cleopatra and Oshun kick off on Friday evening, we launch the 10 day sprint known as Carnival in New Orleans. Krewe population trends varied around the metropolitan area, an interesting pattern to say the least. Orleans Parish organizations are growing by leaps and bounds, while Jefferson Parish saw several krewes fade away. I really cannot explain this development. The suburbs have been growing for decades as the city lost population. So why did Thor, Zeus and Atlas, three old Jefferson krewes with 140 years of parading history, cease marching?

Krewe of Cleopatra Logo

Krewe of Cleopatra Logo

In the past 17 years, 25 Carnival clubs have quit. The trend precedes Hurricane Katrina. In spite of the Orleans Parish parade moratorium, the Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale received permission to ride this year on February 8. They will parade after the three previously scheduled parades. In Jefferson, the Krewe of Athena Carnival Club received a parade permit to follow Excalibur tonight.

Parade goers will have to come up with a new plan if they set up shop on certain neutral grounds and city street intersections this year. The Army Corps of Engineers’ drainage projects along Napoleon and Jefferson Streets will mess up lots of Carnival plans. Fences on the neutral grounds along Napoleon will severely limit parade watching.

According to Mark Romig, president of the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation, the 2015 season will be a busy one, with many area hotels already filled up between now and Fat Tuesday. However, the Quarter and downtown have suffered recently from bad publicity due to a rash of robberies and assaults.

Additional state troopers were deployed in the French Quarter in August after more negative publicity when a shooting on Bourbon killed one woman and injured several others. Those officers left the city after the 2015 Sugar Bowl was concluded even though the mayor asked Governor Bobby Jindal to extend their stay.

Now, State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson says he is working with New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu to extend their tenure. Plus, the tourism industry has ponied up $2.5 million to keep troopers here. That’s an impressive amount of money.

On a lighter note, the New Orleans Advocate is producing 14 full color Krewe Parade Bulletins for 2015. In 1886, the Krewe of Proteus became the first Carnival organization to present full color chromolithograph newspaper editions showing the float designs for it’s street pageant. Other krewes quickly followed suit, and these carnival editions or bulletins continued to be printed and sold on street corners for a dime until 1941.

1883 REX Parade Bulletin

1893 REX Parade Bulletin

This year, and this year only, Friday the 13th and Valentine’s Day fall on the weekend before Fat Tuesday. Several krewes will indicate this event via their float designs and throws.

For most of the last 150 years, New Orleans official reviewing stand for Mardi Gras parades has been historic Gallier Hall. That changed when a large piece of the facade fell off the building last year, closing the building for 2015.

Krewe du Vieux Rolls and “Begs For Change”!

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The 2015 version of Krewe du Vieux rolled throughout the Marigny, French Quarter, and Central Business District last evening before a large adult crowd, some small children, and a few kids who had no business attending. It was an all new route for the non-profit krewe dedicated to the historical and traditional concept of a Mardi Gras parade as a venue for individual creative expression and satirical comment.

Virtually all the music provided by the parade last night came from brass bands from around New Orleans.- Langiappe, Pinettes, Kinfolk, TBC, New Birth, Jazzmen, Bone Tone, Big Fun, One Love, Young Fellaz, Paulin Bros, Treme, Egg Yolk Jubilee, and Baby Boy. KdV is the top music parade in the city, and that’s no small statement. 20+ great brass bands truly enrich the parade going experience for both the participants and crowd. We march 3.8 miles across Marigny, the Quarter and the CBD, and every step of the way was a joy due to the continuous, non-amplified, mobile concert that accompanied each krewe.

Egg Yolk Jubilee

Egg Yolk Jubilee

OffBeat Pinettes Cover

OffBeat Pinettes Cover

The KdV pre-party was the food highlight of the evening. The abundant Popeyes’ fried chicken, red beans, po-boys, homemade cheesecakes, salads, and finger sandwiches went over very well. The best food I scarfed- marinaded filet mignon sandwich on biscuit with spring greens and goat cheese.

The temperature was in the mid 50s as the parade kicked off.  The parade was the peak event of the evening. The brass band marching immediately in front of our mule was the Big Fun Brass Band. Behind me was Underwear stalwart Egg Yolk Jubilee. Both were extraordinary and added a lot of weight to the festivities. Since my position as Escort is next to the float, I mostly heard the band in front of me.  After listening to and dancing to them for a couple of hours, I realized how much the band had improved my parade experience.

I have found that the amount of fun to be had being part of a parade is directly related to the amount of throws you have to throw during the parade. If you have enough throws so you can throw from beginning to end, you will have a superlative time. If you have less throws, you may not have as good a time.

Each sub-krewe that collectively make up KdV design their own hard biting, ribald float based on the mother krewe’s 2015 theme, KdV Begs For Change. This makes for well thought out, well constructed floats. I generally  include a photo essay from KdV taken before the parade rolls, but after they have left the den and set up in pre-staging before moving to the start of the parade.

 

NOMusicMan at KdV 2015

NOMusicMan at KdV 2015

Early Parade Goers at KdV 2015 Before Parade Launched

Early Parade Goers at KdV 2015 Before Parade Launched

Krewe of Underwear 2015 Float j

Krewe of Underwear 2015 Float

KdV2015 Title Float- Begs For Change!

KdV2015 Title Float- Begs For Change!

KdV 2015

KdV 2015

KdV 2015

KdV 2015

KdV  2015

KdV 2015

 

KdV 2015 Float

KdV 2015 Float

KdV 2015 Float

KdV 2015 Float

 

 

 

Brazilian Drought Threatens Carnival Celebrations!

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Brazil is suffering from the worst drought in over 80 years. Crops are dying from lack of water, millions of Brazilians are short of drinking water, and electrical blackouts are common. The drought has been worsening for over a year and has decimated southeastern Brazil, the nation’s richest and most densely populated region. As the Southern Hemisphere enters into the zenith of its summer season, the drought continues to worsen.

Beautiful, Historic Ouro Preto

Beautiful, Historic Ouro Preto

Over a dozen cities and towns in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais have called off or scaled back their Carnival celebrations. Ouro Preto is a city in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, a former colonial mining town located in the Serra do Espinhaço mountains and designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its outstanding Baroque architecture, has been forced to rotate outages to ensure ample water for the 70,000 tourists who descend on Ouro Preto for Carnival.

Brazilian Drought

Brazilian Drought

In Brazil’s largest city, San Paulo, where water levels are alarmingly low, city council member Gilberto Natalini has called on the mayor and state governor to cancel Carnival and other humongous water intensive public events for the foreseeable future. It would be like dancing samba on a funeral, Mr. Natalini said.

Oliveira, with a population of 42,000, has canceled all 2015 festivities due to very low water supplies. They usually receive 20,000 Carnival visitors for its one week long Carnival celebration. The president of Oliveira’s Carnival Commission, Antonio Penido, said, Never in the history of our city has something like this happened. With broken hearts, we made the decision.

When the world thinks of Brazilian Carnival, it is Rio de Janeiro that comes to mind. The most out of this world and over the top version of Carnival will go on as scheduled with some concessions to current events. At least two of the large professional samba schools that create the event are scaling back water elements on their over-sized parade floats.

Light and mirror effects will be utilized instead of water to depict a rushing 20-foot fountain of youth for the Uniao da Ilha do Governador samba school in Rio. Tourism officials in Rio are expecting almost a million Carnival tourists, who are expected to spend three quarters of a billion dollars on all the myriad of tourist restaurants, lodging, souvenirs, transportation and deluxe parade seating and event packages.

Police Shortage is Mardi Gras Security Risk!!

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This is only the second or third story that will go on both of my blogs. Crime and Mardi Gras do occasionally mix.

French Quarter Caution Sign

French Quarter Caution Sign

There are signs all over the French Quarter which state Caution: Walk in Large Groups. We (heart) N.O.P.D. We Just Need More. This isn’t a good sign for a city about to enter one of the biggest holidays of the year, Mardi Gras. Approximately 1 million visitors descend on New Orleans each Carnival season and most will hit the Quarter soon after arriving. They will be greeted by a French Quarter bathed in unsettling signs.

Security is a growing concern to many New Orleanians and Americans. When New Orleans is perceived as a dangerous place, less people make plans to visit. The streets of New Orleans during Carnival are full of state troopers, federal agents, virtually half the police force at one time, plus scads of private security personnel. Downtown there are a lot of weirdos that make it down to Mardi Gras also.

In the last 11 years, at least 27 people were injured and one killed on parade routes and Bourbon Street. That is one horrific statistic. Carnival has historically had a violent side.  I personally have been very close on St Charles Avenue to a major shooting incident a decade ago. I’ve had very large groups with me at times and much smaller at other, but no one in my group has ever been accosted on the parade route or downtown or in Metairie or other parades around the metro area.

Mardi Gras in the French Quarter

Mardi Gras in the French Quarter

Another growing trend, private security cameras, have caught many of these assaults and shown the brazenness of the perpetrators. The variety of weapons employed is staggering. This footage shows up on YouTube and adds to our collective anxiety.

Since Katrina, the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) has lost about 500 officers, and I’ve written about this problem recently on my other blog about jail and justice in New Orleans here. Michael Glasser, president of the Police Association of New Orleans, a police union, says I have been to some roll calls where there is one cop, two cops. Mayor Mitch Landrieu would like around 1,600 officers. I’ve authorized as much overtime as is necessary, says our Mayor.

The Mayor has personally felt the sting of crime very recently. One of his personal vehicles was stolen in front of his home over the weekend. The 2006 Jeep was recovered within blocks of his house by an off duty Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s deputy. The Jeep was equipped with LoJack technology. The deputy was heading home across the Mississippi River bridge after finishing a 12 hour shift. His LoJack receiver in his patrol car picked up the signal. He called in the information and found out the car belonged to the mayor of New Orleans. He followed the signal and found himself near the 2nd District Police station. He stopped and checked in, then began pursuing the stolen vehicle again. He ran into the Jeep at General Taylor and Constance streets.

Turns out the New Orleans police never received the LoJack signal as Jefferson Parish did. Hmmm.

According Glasser, This shows crime is not limited to a handful of people in the traditionally ‘bad areas.’ Anybody can be a victim, and ironically, the victim in this case is the person screaming the loudest that crime is down. And while he admits there’s a staffing shortage, I think he underrates the importance of that.

 

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