From Veterans Boulevard, Clifford Drive is easy to find. Just a few blocks west of the intersection of Veterans and Causeway boulevards, supposedly the most traversed corner in the state, a legible sign announces Clifford, which is approached by an easy right turn. For any person driving around, looking to cause trouble or otherwise, it’s an easy street to approach. I drove up Clifford last week just because. The block where the double murder took place was further down on the other side of West Esplanade Boulevard, just before a sign that says Dead End. That particular night there were several houses that were totally dark. Though suspects had been apprehended by then this was not a block where people wanted to be.
I have known people who live on Clifford and its surrounding blocks. It is a pure American Dream neighborhood with nice middle class homes that reflect the power of democracy and capitalism where ambitions can be realized. Unfortunately sometimes nightmares cannot be avoided.
After hearing about the home invasion murder of a father and son we all might have felt more secure had we learned that the cause was either drug-related or domestic. It was neither. Instead it was the type of murder that tears a community apart, a murder by a stranger in an exemplary household – a random act that none of us, in similar situations, could have avoided.
We who live in the New Orleans area are blessed to be in an incredible community. We are on the edge of paradise, if only damn crime didn’t haunt us. What does it say about our strength and security when a 17-year-old with a rifle can impulsively tear apart families and neighborhoods?
What happened in Metairie raises again the question of whether or not the fight again crime is hopeless. Will there always be another Clifford Drive? There are three factors at play here; two seem encouraging, the other does not:
To the positive, police work is becoming very good. If the charges hold up, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office did a superb job in resolving the case. The detectives were smart and they, along with U.S. Marshals and New Orleans police, had the tools to lift fingerprints, identify license plates and zero in on two people on the other side of town who thought they were beyond surveillance. It was brilliant work.
Also to the positive is education. The debates continue, but I’m one of those who believe that education is improving. Something good is happening. We probably will not see the effect for another decade or so, but today’s 7-year-olds, who will be 17 by then, might feel that life offers better choices.
Then there’s the bad. Why does a 17-year-old have a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun? Just having it probably made him itch to use it. The cycle intensifies: Crime breeds more demand for weapons as the innocent feel increased need to arm themselves. We are still a nation of gunfighters, and often the wrong people are victims.
We should all take a ride down Clifford Drive.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), has been released. It is now available at local bookstores and at book websites.
WATCH “Informed Sources” Fridays at 7 p.m., repeated at 11:30 p.m. on WYES-TV, Ch. 12.