NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - There were strong words from Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Wednesday about the bloodshed in New Orleans. He addressed gun violence and how he plans to stop murders in the city before a crowd at Tulane University.
"Eighteen days ago, at 11:31 p.m. on a Saturday night in the heart of our city, Will Smith was shot and killed following what should have been a minor car accident. His death leaves a wife alone, three children without a father, his fellow teammates in shock, and a hole in the heart of a hurting city," Landrieu said.
The mayor talked about the high-profile death of former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith, as well as other gun violence victims who didn't make headlines as he spoke about his strategy to reduce murders in New Orleans. As part of that plan, Landrieu said the city is making dramatic changes to the New Orleans Police Department and focusing on a prison re-entry initiative that helps those getting out of jail find a job or housing.
"We have also - thank you council members - 'banned the box' that requires job applicants to reveal their criminal record on the written application," he said. "Now an individual with a criminal record can get an interview and explain their past and what they have to offer before they're turned away."
The mayor said his strategy, "Nola For Life," also includes a tripled budget for the recreation department to help improve neighborhoods. He added that he and law enforcement officials are also reaching out to gang members.
"We tell them, 'look, you got three options: You can die on the street, you can spend the rest of your life in prison, or you can accept help,'" said Landrieu.
Landrieu is also calling on New Orleanians for help.
"We are a city, we are a country that is drunk on violence, and we need to wake up to this fact," he said.
Landrieu asked those in the crowd to assist by doing things like getting involved in the recreation department as a coach, becoming a Nola For Life mentor to help young men who may be at risk for violence, or helping young people in New Orleans find job opportunities or training programs.