Contact: Ken Daley, Public Information
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro on Thursday (May 16) proposed an eight-point plan aimed at reducing violent and habitual juvenile crime in New Orleans.
The DA’s proposals follow the tragic murder of Zelda Townsend, a 63-year-old wife and grandmother who was fatally shot the night of May 8 when she and her husband investigated a car alarm and encountered an armed 17-year-old burglarizing their vehicle in Mid-City. Emanuel Pipkins has been arrested and booked with second-degree murder in connection with the killing, along with his 18-year-old girlfriend Byrielle Hebert and a 16-year-old accomplice.
“That an armed teenager took this woman’s life during a botched auto burglary is inexcusable,” Cannizzaro said, “and the tragedy must be felt beyond her grieving husband and their relatives and friends. She should be considered family to us all. Because what happened to her could have happened to any one of us this year, in any part of New Orleans. Our juvenile crime problem is that out of control.”
Cannizzaro said in a Feb. 5 speech before the Metropolitan Crime Commission that violent juvenile offenders posed New Orleans’ biggest crime problem for 2019. The DA has warned for months that the lack of meaningful consequences for violent and repeat offenders adjudicated in the city’s Juvenile Court would have dangerous repercussions.
“The question no longer is whether this city is too hard on juvenile offenders,” Cannizzaro said. “It is whether juvenile offenders are too hard on this city. Mrs. Townsend’s murder leaves no doubt of the answer.”
The DA’s eight-point plan to impact juvenile crime would require the participation of numerous stakeholders, including city leaders, juvenile judges, the New Orleans Police Department, the Louisiana State Police, the Youth Study Center, outside donors and the parents and guardians of juvenile offenders. It includes:
- Stepping up NOPD enforcement of the curfew and truancy ordinances already on the books;
- Encouraging and allowing juvenile court judges to impose tougher restrictions, including electronic monitoring and detention, upon violent and repeat offenders;
- Demanding better supervision by parents and guardians, including possible arrest for violating the existing state law against Improper Supervision of a Minor;
- Pushing for a conclusion to the NOPD’s federal consent decree, which could free up $11 million per year to reinvest into juvenile crime solutions;
- Expanding the capacity of the Youth Study Center and city-proposed rehabilitation programs to meet juvenile offender population demands;
- Putting the public safety needs of New Orleans’ citizens and visitors ahead of the demands of outside donors and justice reform groups;
- Investing equally in the needed expansion of the DA’s Juvenile Division staff as the city has in funding juvenile public defenders and the proposed evening reporting center;
- Requesting additional manpower from the Louisiana State Police to help quell juvenile crime until school resumes.
“The Mayor and City Council still would have much hard work ahead addressing some of the deeper, systemic issues that fuel criminal activity in New Orleans — education, poverty, income inequality, substance abuse, mental health treatment and more,”
Cannizzaro said. “But engaging this eight-point plan without delay would provide the juvenile crime relief our citizens so desperately want and so badly deserve.”
- Main Office
- 619 South White Street
- New Orleans LA 70119
- (504) 822-2414