The tragic and untimely death of former pro football player Will Smith is yet another reminder that while violent crimes across the United States have decreased, it still remains a prevalent issue.
On Saturday night April 9, local resident Cardell Hayes gunned down Smith in the streets of New Orleans after a small fender bender resulted in a heated exchange that soon escalated between the two men.
Smith, who was only 34 and recently retired from the NFL, was shot eight times in total- seven in the back, and once in his left side.
Friend and former teammate Pierre Thomas was in the vicinity and had to witness a man whom he considers a “brother” murdered right before his very eyes.
“I witnessed a close friend, teammate and a man that I thought of as one of my big brothers in the NFL shot to death over a fucking fender bender,” said Thomas. “When is this shit going to stop? There is so much senseless killing going on in our world, and I’m not saying that I have the answers to fix it, but I am willing to do my part to help and find a solution.”
Cardell Hayes, who has been charged with second-degree murder, did not know who the victim was until the next day, according to his attorney, John Fuller. When Hayes later found out Sunday morning, he collapsed in a chair, Fuller said. Hayes was apparently a huge fan of Smith, and wanted to be just like him.
Is there a real issue here?
According to a 2015 report from The Brookings Institute, the national crime rate in America is about half of what it was at its height in 1991. Violent crime has fallen by 51 percent since 1991, and property crime by 43 percent. And in 2013 the violent crime rate was the lowest since 1970.
Nonetheless, major American cities like Detroit, Memphis, St. Louis, and New Orleans continue to not only remain, but increase in violent crime rate year after year.
“The problem is New Orleans perennially is way up in these homicides statistically,” said New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who was Smith’s teammate for seven seasons. “We become desensitized to it. And so many people die, but we pay attention when it’s Will Smith- that forces so many people who wouldn’t normally deal with it to deal with the reality of a terrible thing, the gun violence in the city.”
Just five years ago, there were 16,761 crimes in New Orleans including 200 murders, 163 forcible rapes and 14,013 property crimes. With a murder rate of 57.6 per 100,000, New Orleans had the highest murder rate of any U.S. city with a population of 100,000 or more in 2011 and ranked 28th in the world in 2014.
Crime isn’t the adversity facing New Orleans.
An unidentified witness said she saw something “untoward” happen at the crime scene, who according to reports arrived shortly after the shooting, but has refused to go into details about what she saw, saying she “fears for her life.”
It’s an unwelcome reminder that such a wonderful city like New Orleans- or any city for that matter; violent crime cannot remain the way it is. This is a real issue that must be addressed before the problem escalates to an extremity.
– Alden Bisson