Soldiers for social change: combating the murder rate

October 31, 2013 2:00 PM

Benton Oliver

“It’s a human issue. Everyone is impacted one way or another,” said Rabbi Yonah Schiller, executive director of Tulane Hillel, in his introduction of the latest installment of “The Big Issue” on Oct. 29 in Tulane Hillel’s home, the Mintz Center, near the Tulane University uptown campus. “The Big Issue” is a debate series focused on community building in New Orleans.

The Big Picture talk on murder, Kenneth Polite

During “The Big Issue” presentation at Tulane Hillel, Kenneth Polite, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, gives his TED-style talk about addressing the murder problem. (Photo by Ryan Rivet)

This event, entitled “Can We Solve the Murder Problem?” focused on different approaches to understanding and eventually eliminating this issue. Discussion mediator Tania Tetlow, associate professor of law and director of the Domestic Violence Clinic at Tulane, echoed the rabbi’s introductory sentiment.

“These aren’t just any children being gunned down, these are our children, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we begin to fix the problem,” Tetlow said.

Though promoted as a panel discussion, the event took the more appropriate form of four, 10 minute TED-style talks delivered by esteemed experts in fields related to the reduction of the Crescent City’s murder rate. These talks delved into causes of this violence and ways in which these can be systemically prevented, rather than into issues within New Orleans’ criminal justice system.

Professors of sociology and applied biopsychology, from Loyola University and the University of New Orleans respectively, spoke on “The Big Issue,” as did the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana and the chair of NOLA for Life, an anti-murder campaign run by the New Orleans mayor’s office.

The professors presented their research into academically understanding where and why murders occur in New Orleans. The two government officials spoke on how improvements in New Orleans civic programming and law enforcement will improve the murder rate over time.

According to Tetlow, “The murder problem is a scourge of violent crime that frightens people and impedes our progress.”

Benton Oliver is a junior at Tulane University majoring in communication and music.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu