CrimeTracker: Mean Streets

CrimeTracker: Mean Streets

“I know what happens when people get shot, and that's going to happen to me. This is how it's going to end,” said the victim of an armed robbery.

This victim, who FOX 8 is not identifying, said the crime changed her life. She works as a paramedic for New Orleans EMS.

"As I was going to get out of my car, I unplugged my phone and was going to take the keys out of the ignition and grab the door handle, and I looked up. There was a gun at the window pointed at me," the victim said.

Guns pointed in her face, the robbers cursed and yelled at her to get out of the car. She knew exactly what could happen.

"When I saw the barrel of the gun, my first thought was I'm going to die. With my occupation, knowing what happens when you get shot, my co-workers are going to pick me up. I'm going to wind up in Room 4 Activation at University Hospital," she said.

In near shock, she got out of the car, handed over her cell phone, and slowly backed away from the gunmen.

"I said, the keys are in the car. The car is running. Take everything. Take whatever you want. I just turned and ran because I figured that it was my best chance that I had to get away. If he was going to shoot me, he was going to have to hit a moving target and he was going to shoot me in the back. I wasn't going to let somebody shoot me point blank standing right there and not do anything," she said.

The victim stopped running and hid behind some bushes. She watched as the gunmen struggled to steal her sports car.

"Apparently, the manual transmission confused them," she said.

After the robbers couldn't figure out how to operate a stick shift, both men jumped into a getaway van and took off with the victim's EMS bag, cell phone and keys to her home and car.

"They got things that now makes my life inconvenient," said the victim. "They took away my sense of safety, and that's what I'm mad about. That's what upsets me, because this is my home. I don't want to put a for sale sign up and say I'm done. I don't want to do that, but at the same time, when am I going to feel like I can breathe again?"

She isn't alone. In fact, across New Orleans, hundreds of people have become armed robbery victims this year. In this CrimeTracker Investigation, FOX 8 obtained the incident report numbers - locations and time of day for every armed robbery from Jan. 1 until Oct. 1 of this year.

Across the entire city, the NOPD investigated 658 armed robberies in that time period.

"Armed robberies are actually the measure by which we gauge violence in our society," said NOPD Deputy Chief Bob Bardy.

The NOPD admits that armed robberies are up this year compared to last, and when you take a closer look at where they're happening, it becomes even more telling.

Of all the districts in the city, the 7th District - New Orleans East - ranks No. 1 for having the most incidents. This year, 110 armed robberies have occurred there. Compare that to 4th District in Algiers with 41 armed robberies.

"Three customers came in just after 3 a.m. and they robbed the store," said Mohanad Hindi.

Hindi, who owns the East Side Cash n' Carry on Chef Menteur Highway, caught the action on his store surveillance cameras. The suspects, with guns drawn, ordered three employees to the floor. They rummaged through the place, stealing cash, cigarettes and the owner's guns from his office.

He said his workers were traumatized and he's fed up.

"Honestly, it's been happening for the past year. A lot of stores have been robbed more than three times this year, mostly gas stations, and my store is just one of them," Hindi said.

Chef Menteur was the scene of 23 armed robberies in 2014, more than any other street in New Orleans.

"The 7th District is very unique. It's easy to have 110 when you have an area that's 110 square miles and 70,000 residents. It is somewhat of a challenge," said Bardy.

Bardy said in addition to the armed robberies involving businesses, several are connected to prostitution and the drug trade.

"It really is hard to get witnesses to come back and participate in a follow-up investigation or make an identification," Bardy said.

That challenge is also a problem in other parts of town, like the Marigny and French Quarter, where the most concentrated number of armed robberies are happening.

"The French Quarter is probably the hardest place to solve a crime in the city of New Orleans," said Bardy.

It's also a place where thousands of tourists visit every day.

"If you become a victim of armed robbery and they snatch her iPhone and you're going back to Boston, are you coming back to prosecute? They are quite aware of that, so it's really hard," Bardy said.

The most popular street in the French Quarter is Bourbon Street, but it's also the place where several people have become victims of armed robbery since Jan. 1. In an eight-block stretch of Bourbon Street, along with Dauphine, which is the next street over, there have been 14 armed robberies.

For people parking on St. Phillip St, near Armstrong Park, to visit the French Quarter, take note: There's been an armed robbery on every corner from North Villiere to North Rampart this year.

It seems you're most likely to become a victim in the late evening through about 1 a.m., and 67 percent of the time, the robber is armed with a gun. Other times, they'll use a knife or some other weapon. FOX 8 has reported armed robberies that involve baseball bats and even a machete.

"The thing that shocks me the most is the total disregard that people have for life. They're so brazen and these criminals don't care," said the  paramedic.

Behind every armed robbery statistic, there's a victim who will tell you the experience altered their life in a negative way. The paramedic said she never imagined she'd be one of them.

"We think we're invincible, and I did have that thought before," she said. "I was like, I'm the one that helps victims, I'm not going to be a victim. Was there a little arrogance in that thinking? Yes, but I felt safe. I felt safe in my home. I felt safe in my neighborhood, and I felt safe in my city because I didn't think it was going to be me. Nobody thinks it will be them, and if I could tell people anything at all, it could be you."

The national average for armed robbery clearance rates, meaning someone has been arrested for the crime, is 26 percent. The NOPD has a near 40 percent clearance rate in the 2nd and 6th districts. It's just below the national average in the 7th and 8th districts.

The NOPD says surveillance videos, especially in the 8th District, have become extremely helpful in solving armed robberies.

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