Crimetracker Investigation: Armed robbery calls

Updated: Nov. 17, 2015 at 10:21 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - "We're doing well here at Buffa's," said owner Jarod Rogers. "It's been long enough that the kind of shock and effect has worn off to some degree. But at the time it stopped us in our tracks for about a week."

It was just five days into 2015 when gunmen pulled off an armed robbery at the bar and restaurant on Esplanade Avenue.

"There were two armed young men that came in," he said. "One of them hung out by the door. The other one went straight for the bartender and physically pushed him behind the bar to get the till, to get the bank."

"When the two gentlemen came in, it's hard to remember the words, but it was pretty much, 'everybody down, we have guns,'" said the bartender, who asked not to be identified.

The armed men didn't just rob the bar, but made customers hand over their wallets.

"It's just pretty scary when you look at the barrel of a gun," the bartender said. "You don't think about it. You see it on TV, but it's different when it's in your face."

"More than what they stole was the effect on our employees and our customers," Rogers said. "A lot of people were so uneasy for a while."

In the first five days of 2015, police had already responded to 19 other armed robbery calls before gunmen robbed Buffa's. Still, the brazen act on Esplanade Avenue drew attention from people who couldn't believe what happened.

"The chairs were barricaded against the doors," Rogers said. "The bartender was shaken up, and that's all he could do was look at me and say, 'we just got robbed.'"

In this special Crimetracker Investigation, FOX 8 obtained and analyzed armed robbery data from the past 22 months, which includes all of last year, plus the first 10 months of 2015. In nearly two years, police investigated 1,708 armed robberies across New Orleans.

This map shows the sheer number of incidents color-coded by districts. The highest concentration of armed robberies happened in the Eighth District, which consists of the French Quarter and CBD - 537 armed robberies in all.

Compare that to the Sixth District, consisting of Central City, the Irish Channel and Garden District - 122 armed robberies.

"I started screaming and crying for help, and then he started hitting his gun on my head," one victim said. "Maybe four or five times. I was so afraid that he would shoot at me or knock me out, so I let go of my purse."

The Uptown area of the Second District is the only area that had more armed robberies in the first 10 months of this year compared to all of last year. Last year, there were 57 armed robberies in the Second District. Compare that to 84 armed robberies so far this year. That's a 47 percent increase.

Armed robberies in the Second District have also been among the most high-profile.

"So the first man came in, he was masked. He put a gun to the owner's head and told him to get to the floor. About five seconds later, the other two gentlemen walked in," said Lorenzo Reef with Patois Restaurant.

When gunmen busted through the doors of Patois, robbing the business and everyone inside, people became alarmed.

"Every time something happens, we recognize the gravity of the crime in this city," Reef said. "Something has to be done."

Then it happened again, this time at the Atchafalaya restaurant on Louisiana Avenue.

"One of the servers just came through the restaurant and was saying, 'we're getting robbed,'" said Chris Lynch. "New Orleans police were here in four or five minutes."

FOX 8 cross-referenced our armed robbery statistics with our data on NOPD response times. It turns out that it actually took police just two minutes to respond to the Atchafalaya restaurant after someone placed a call to 911.

That was not the case when Patois was robbed just one month earlier.

"It's horrible," said Patois chef Aaron Burgau. "I mean, they feel they can do - I mean, I got here before the cops did, and I'm sure they called the cops before they called me."'

According to the NOPD's call for service log, it took officers nearly 19 minutes to arrive on scene. Victims complained about the slow response.

We found that it takes the NOPD on average this year 19 minutes to respond to any armed robbery call. The average response time was a lot lower in 2011, when it took police seven minutes to respond.

NOPD Chief Michael Harrison told FOX 8 that on the night of the Patois robbery, officers in the Second District were extremely busy responding to other armed robbery calls. If you look at the call log, it shows an armed robbery happened on Prytania Street just 10 minutes before the Patois incident, and it took police 19 minutes to respond. A half-hour before that, someone was carjacked on Palmer Street, also in the Second District. In that case the call log shows police responded almost immediately.

"I think the police did a good job in and of themselves," said Buffa's owner Rogers. "They responded well."

Rogers isn't complaining about the four-minute response time to his place back in January but he says there needs to be a level of understanding among the community about becoming an armed robbery victim.

"I don't think there's any pattern to it," he said. "I don't think there's anything you can do to determine where it's going to hit next. It's kind of like waiting for lightning to strike. If you're a business such as Buffa's or any business in general, the best thing you can do is be ready."

Copyright 2015 WVUE. All rights reserved.