FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
‘’The Accidental Vigilante” Wins Coveted Royal Dragonfly Book Award
CHANDLER, AZ (November, 2016) – The judges of the 2016 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards contest, which recognizes excellence in all genres of literature, have spoken, and “The Accidental Vigilante” by Robert Sterling Hecker won 1st place for Best Mystery, 2nd place for Best Cover Design, and Honorable Mention for Best Fiction Novel.
“Winning any place in the Royal Dragonfly Contest is a huge honor because in order to maintain the integrity of the Dragonfly Book Awards, a minimum score is required before a First or Second Place or Honorable Mention will be awarded to the entrant – even if it is the sole entry in a category,” explains Linda F. Radke, president of the Dragonfly Book Awards program. “Competition is steep, too, because there is no publication date limit as long as the book is still in print.”
“The Accidental Vigilante” is a thrilling crime fiction novel about a rookie New Orleans cop who gets in over his head while secretly tracking dangerous child molesters. He finds himself in the crosshairs of a Russian crime syndicate and is a homicide suspect by his own department. “The Accidental Vigilante” retails for $14.99 and can be purchased at the Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans and on Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). More information at www.robertsterlinghecker.com.
For a complete list of winners including all first and second place and honorable mention recipients, visit www.DragonflyBookAwards.com and click on “Winners.”
The next Royal Dragonfly Book Awards contest is already underway. Final deadline for submissions is October 1, 2017. The final deadline for the Purple Dragonfly Book Awards Contest, which recognizes outstanding literature in children’s books, is May 1, 2017. For complete rules and submission forms for either contest, visit www.FiveStarBookAwards.com and click on the contest of choice.
October 14, 2016. My novel, "The Accidental Vigilante" is now available at the Garden District Book Shop, located at 2727 Prytania Street, New Orleans, LA. It is also available on Amazon.com. If you need further information, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Sterling Hecker
BOOK SIGNING EVENT HELD AT GARDEN DISTRICT BOOK SHOP 9/21/16
September 22, 2016...Book Signing was an overwhelming success! Thanks to all who stopped by. Also, my sincere gratitude to the Garden District Book Shop for their great hospitality! Now, I can concentrate on the sequel.. shooting for the summer of 2017.
The Accidental Vigilante
Publishing launch draws from author’s decorated law enforcement career
New Orleans, LA. — Robert Sterling Hecker, police chief for the Harbor Police Department-Port of New Orleans, intends to keep his day job (for now) even as he embarks on a new career as crime fiction author. After decades of fighting criminals in the Big Easy, Hecker has penned a thrilling new crime fiction novel called The Accidental Vigilante.
Now available in paperback and digital editions, The Accidental Vigilante features a rookie New Orleans cop, Jeremy Porter, who is labeled an oddball by his peers. Porter’s abrupt transfer to the Child Abuse Section is quickly terminated after he botches his first interrogation. He is ridiculed, ostracized and demoted to desk duty. Determined to prove himself, he decides to secretly conduct his own off-duty surveillance of dangerous child molesters. However, his good intentions result in several homicides and Porter becomes a person of interest to the NOPD.
That’s only the beginning of his troubles. Once the leader of a vicious Russian crime syndicate learns the rogue cop is threatening his criminal enterprise, he orders the abduction of two more children, including Porter’s six-year old daughter. Since Porter is the subject of a citywide manhunt by his own department, he must act alone. Will he be able to evade his own arrest to save her?
Join author Robert Sterling Hecker on the fast paced thrill ride that is “The Accidental Vigilante.”
“I’ve witnessed so many brazen and outrageous criminal acts during my nearly 50 years in law enforcement. Now, I have a burning desire to channel those vivid memories and vast experience into crime fiction/mystery/thriller novels. I have so many different stories swirling around in my head, I am eager to continue my newfound passion of writing,” he says.
Hecker is also known for his accomplishments during the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005. For his leadership, he was named New Orleanian of the Year by Gambit Magazine, Hero of the Storm by WDSU Television Station and Southern Woman Magazine, Metropolitan Crime Commission’s Meritorious Service Award and was the recipient of the Supervisor of the Year Award from Victims and Citizens Against Crime. Many other honors soon followed.
The Accidental Vigilante gestated for many years before Hecker made time to finish it in 2016. When word of his publishing ambitions became public he was invited to join the “Cops and Authors” writers conference last September at the East Bank Regional Library in Metairie.
Now that his first novel is complete and available on Amazon, (print and Kindle), Hecker is considering other projects. More crime fiction will follow, but nonfiction and a foray into television and film are also possibilities.
“The Accidental Vigilante is the start of a plan to be productive as a writer in various ways. So many new things are happening in publishing and the world of entertainment that it seems wise to keep my options open,” he says.
Hecker was appointed chief of the Harbor Police Department in 1995 and continues to command a uniformed patrol force, marine division, police academy, detective division that interacts with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, and the BEST Task Force. Hecker also manages the port’s emergency response vessel, the Gen. Roy S. Kelley, and the firefighters who staff the vessel.
Hecker is a member of the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Robert Sterling Hecker
P.O. Box 1292
Covington, LA 70434
For more information, contact:
Robert Sterling Hecker
Phone (985) 377-8966
Just when you thought things could not get any worse, tragedy struck again. In the past few weeks, nine more police officers were shot and killed (Dallas, Baton Rouge and Kansas City) with several more police officers seriously injured. These officers were shot because they wore a police uniform and stood for law and order. The nation mourns again for our fallen heroes. We extend our condolences and offer our prayers to the families of the deceased officers and those wounded officers on the road to recovery. I’ll not venture into the debate about race and the police. A monthly blog is simply not the place for that discussion. However, I will close with this. During my time as a police officer working in New Orleans, I placed my life on the line in life and death situations numerous times to protect the public--Black, White, Asian, Mixed race, and on. The race of a victim or perpetrator never mattered to me nor should it have. I treated everyone equally. My oath of office and my moral fiber prevents me from discrimination in any form. I pray the violence against our police officers stops. Stay safe.
Robert Sterling Hecker
June 2016, has been a rough month.
Today, June 22, 2016, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Deputy David Michel, Jr., was shot and killed. A few days ago, NOPD Officer Natasha Hunter was struck and killed by an impaired driver. Both officers were killed in the line of duty. The law enforcement community is a unique family. When we lose a brother or sister officer we experience a variety of emotions, heartache, grief, sadness, anger, and we try our best to fight back the tears. I believe the reason it hits us so hard is that we all know it could have been us. I often wonder—why them? My family and I will pray for these heroic officers—may they rest in peace. We will also pray for their families who are having to deal with such overwhelming grief. I know our citizens will realize these officers died protecting and serving their respective communities. They gave the ultimate sacrifice so others could be safe. God Bless our Police! Where would we be without them? Yes, June 2016, has been a rough month.
Sunday, May 15, 2016, kicks off National Police Week. This is a time when we should pause to remember those heroic police officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice toward keeping their respective communities safe. The families of those who died in the line of duty can be extremely proud of their loved ones but we know the pain of their loss never totally subsides.
Being a police officer has changed immensely over the past 50 years. Some of the standard equipment has gone from a nightstick, a slapjack, and a small note pad, to in-car computers, dash cams, body cams, Tazers, pepper spray and even a computerized traffic ticket.
But there is one thing that will never change. Those who wear the badge do so because they take pride in their work, have a burning a desire to keep their communities safe, and are willing to put their lives on the line to protect others...and for those reasons, we should be grateful to the men and women willing to step up and take the oath...we should applaud their courage!
May God Bless our Police Officers and keep them safe!
Robert Sterling Hecker
I am happy to say that my novel, "The Accidental Vigilante" is once again available on Amazon! Sorry for the interruption but they tell me the book will remain in stock this time. Thank you for your patience.
Although we should be aware of child abuse throughout the year, the President of the United States issues a proclamation in the month of April to announce National Child Abuse Prevention Month. There is a web site with additional information for anyone who wishes to become involved or to be more acquainted with the issue of child abuse. The web site is www.childwelfare.gov.
On another note, the reprint of my book, "The Accidental Vigilante" is nearly complete and I expect it to be available in the next ten days – hopefully less. Thank you for your patience.
ROBERT STERLING HECKER
On Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Christians believe, according to Scripture, that Jesus was raised from the dead three days after his death on the cross. Through his death, Christ saved mankind from bondage to sin, and He destroyed the hold that death has on all of us; but it is His Resurrection that gives us the promise of new life, both in this world and the next.
So while we celebrate Easter Sunday, I have my own miracle to celebrate. After three long years, I am ecstatic to announce my novel, “The Accidental Vigilante,” is complete, packaged and available in paperback. The Kindle version will be available next month.
“The Accidental Vigilante” can now be purchased on Amazon. Kindle will be available soon.
I will continue a monthly blog on the web site to discuss police matters, city affairs, safety tips, and my next book project. Please stop by at your convenience or shoot me an e-mail anytime at email@example.com. Thanks again and –
HAPPY EASTER TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY!
I can’t pretend l was surprised when I saw the Times-Picayune story in late October about the Special Victims Section. My law enforcement experience has taught me to expect anything.
Harrison shakeup gives NOPD's Special Victims Section
its third commander in 12 months
But the headline made me realize that my instincts as a writer of crime fiction were also implicated. Life and literature are great imitators. One pretends to be the other; or vice versa.
I began developing the story line and themes of my suspenseful novel The Accidental Vigilante about five years ago. By the time I finished in September, the narrative included several special victims, repeat offenders and (ironically coinciding with the recent Inspector General’s report) a police department that failed to properly investigate or classify certain crimes. That’s how my book’s tag line came about: “In New Orleans negligence is a natural disaster.”
To be fair, when a police officer or department head is replaced it doesn’t necessarily mean they are corrupt or incompetent. Maybe they just aren’t the right fit for the job. I’ve learned from my tenure as Harbor Police Chief that matching people to new positions can be tricky. Sometimes the “perfect fit” turns out to be a bust, yet the second or third choice outperforms expectations. Why? That’s life.
One reason I love literature and the writing process is that it allows me to dig deeper than the headlines. I can create a character that perhaps fouled up an opportunity, or has been wrongly judged, and then illuminate the imperfections of humanity. We’re all so complex. That’s the lure of literature: to express the dimensions of good and bad men and women.
I don’t know that I would ever try to create a novel solely by reading the headlines and following the action of an ongoing crime spree or tragic incident. Surely, it has been done — life and lit are imitators.
Yet I believe my instinct would be to start with facts and then improvise, follow some twists and turns that are fabricated. Because, as we all know, the “perfect” crime, all carefully thought out and executed, rarely happens. The same is probably true of many novels, in many genres. You think you know how you want it to happen, and then …
The one obvious gap between life and literature is the real despair and suffering that occurs when we do not provide our citizens with the police service they want and deserve. If the Inspector General’s report is correct, we have failed them twice—not conducting proper investigations; and, failing to properly classify certain crimes.
So I am well aware that my new book and the next few may not soothe the suffering masses by shedding light on heinous crimes occurring in our city. The books won’t magically cure poverty or hunger but I promise--they will entertain.
Even so, if I do nothing else, through my writing I hope to serve as one of the many witnesses who can’t help but tell some portion of the great story of our times. Because if crime fiction often imitates life, sometimes life also imitates the miraculous, unexpected turn of events that entertain us in our favorite books.
In closing, I want to commend the men and women of the NOPD who, in spite of the shortage of manpower, continue to do a terrific job. God Bless You All!
Robert Sterling Hecker
Crime fiction author: The Accidental Vigilante
You work for years, finally finish your first book and savor the accomplishment. Then you begin outreach — to agents, publishers, marketers, other authors, and, oh yes, readers.
That’s when reality hits. While your first book finds its way in the world, there is still more work to be done — Next!
When is it time for an author to begin his next book? As soon as possible. The most prolific writers often seem to get the most attention, if they’re good. It is as if the audience is saying, “What have you done for me lately?”
In a recent post at JAKonrath.blogspot.com, writer Andrea Pearson generously shares some great information for promoting your book.
She also posits a consensus on author success:
“Nine out of ten authors agree that the best way to success is through writing more quality books.”
Obviously, some amazing writers follow this advice.
Don Winslow, author of The Power of the Dog and other crime titles claims that he likes to work on two books at a time. If he’s stuck on one, he dives into the other; sooner or later he’ll finish both.
He also says the longest he has gone without writing after a book is completed is five days. He has a good excuse for all his productivity: writing is an addiction.
Writing is also an outlet for people, like me, who have spent an entire career in one profession. As a law enforcement professional I’ve see so much crazy, baffling, inspiring and troubling stuff that I can’t help but want to make sense of it. Stories are the best outlet.
And the possibilities are never-ending.
Outlining the Future
I now find myself outlining my next book. In some ways it surprises me, because it is not the story about the criminal justice system I began some years ago and then set aside to concentrate on my debut crime fiction, The Accidental Vigilante. You might think I’d pick up the slack on something already in process. But I’m inspired by the completion of my first novel and, in a sense, want to continue in that vein.
Yet who knows where I might be in a month from now. One thing or another may cause me to change course, or rearrange my priorities. I’ve already learned a great deal from colleagues and blogs. Clearly, there are some writers out there who have much to teach. And I’m hungry for knowledge.
Also, while getting started on the next book is exciting, one concept that rings some bells for me is this: Make the best of what you have.
In other words, there may be more that I can do with “Accidental” in this multiplatform era that we live in. Being published in one form or another —send me a note, which do you prefer: self-pub or traditional pub? — is the most important next step. Yet …
Podcasts, TV and Film, even a video book teaser for “Accidental” may offer passage into the industry of storytelling by giving me more entry points. Public speaking engagements may also prove to be a gratifying part of my new career. I’ve already begun. I’m looking forward to more.
In closing, to sum it up, my take on “next” is this: do what you can and as much as you can to keep the creativity alive. Sooner or later, someone will notice.
Robert Sterling Hecker
Crime fiction author: The Accidental Vigilante
After an author has crossed the desert and finished his book, then what?
The author must climb the mountain of publishing opportunities.
After a five year journey that included some major droughts, I finished my debut novel The Accidental Vigilante. I was thrilled. But not finished.
When I began this project I was determined to win a contract with a traditional publisher. To that end, in September I sent out query letters to a handful of agents and began what might be called the waiting game.
I was warned by other authors that agents are very busy and might take up to six weeks to respond to a mere letter, if they respond at all.
Fortunately, one agent with ties to New Orleans took an interest. She liked the first couple chapters and so requested the full manuscript of about 77,000 words. Good deal. Progress.
Well, yes, except now a second waiting game begins: understandably, she will need time to read my novel, and there is no promise that she will decide to represent it.
And even if she does, then we begin a third waiting game: shopping the book to the very traditional publishers I have always wanted to engage.
A pow wow with other crime writers gave me some new ideas. They too went through the sequence of waiting games. In some cases, they found an agent to work with and contracted with a publisher.
Then they tired of the waiting game. After finishing a new book they were eager to share it with readers who enjoyed previous titles. They hated the wait. They wanted more control.
I’m beginning to feel the same way. The urge to share a new story is intense. After all, in some cases, the author has spent years imagining and writing the book, experiencing the high of writing an exciting chapter, and the low of having to discard a portion of writing that just isn’t working.
The author wants to announce his achievement and send it into the vast and exciting world of readers who seek a new story, a new favorite writer.
Fortunately, indie publishing has come a long way in recent years. An author has many platforms to choose from when considering a launch for a new book.
My colleagues champion publishers like Amber Quill and Five Star, while others suggests CreateSpace. And that’s just the beginning of the list. The choices are plentiful.
And part of the lure is the success of a book like The Martian, by Andy Weir. Granted, Sci-Fi is not the genre I’ve chosen to explore, but to see a book go from digital self-published obscurity to bestseller to major film starring Matt Damon is a wonder to behold.
Yes, I know, there will always be those publishing events that send the world reeling. They are rare and so we can’t all expect that kind of reaction to our work.
Even so, the fact that new authors continue to break through simply by doing the hard work and sharing their books is invigorating and encouraging.
Not sure yet which direction I’ll go. But what an exciting time to be a writer.
Robert Sterling Hecker
Author of The Accidental Vigilante
When transitioning to a new career the itch to learn is constant. You want to absorb as much as possible about the process of writing and the path to publishing.
I’m now on the verge of submitting my debut crime novel to agents. Creating and revising The Accidental Vigilante has been a long journey that has included set-backs, victories and a broad array of lessons and growth spurts.
Yet as I embrace my literary ambitions I can’t help but think back on my law enforcement vocation. When I was rookie I got a lot of help from veteran cops. Shouldn’t the same be true of authors?
You bet. That’s why I was thrilled to learn about the “Cops and Authors” writers conference scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26, at 10 a.m. The sponsor is the East Bank Regional Library, 4747 W. Napoleon in Metairie. The event is free and open to the public. And one of the participants just happens to be one of my law enforcement colleagues.
I’m looking forward to catching up with O’Neil De Noux. He’s kept busy. Although crime fiction is his specialty, he has found time to explore other genres. I know he’ll have much to say about the balancing act of being a detective and prolific author.
And that’s the point of the conference. Provide helpful and practical information for new authors, or readers who simply love crime fiction and want to meet some authors and buy a few books.
My friend will be sharing the platform with another expert.
Write what you know is an old trope that still seems to hold power and make lots of sense. At my time in life, what else would I choose to write about? Obviously, my cop community agrees.
B.J. Bourg will talk about his work as a SWAT and sniper leader. I’ll be all ears because his expertise speaks to an important climactic scene in my novel. Although I’m pleased with the narrative sequence I’ve created, it never hurts to check in with a guy who has been there and done that.
Team work is also an important part of our career experience, so Bourg will be joined by his wife Amanda. Her topic is post-traumatic stress disorder. The information is meant to help authors create compelling characters who suffer from the dreaded P.T.S.D.
With all that’s been happening in recent months to police officers nation-wide, I’ve got to believe that Amanda’s contribution will be riveting. How many other professions expect men and women to show up for work knowing that a gun may be pointed in their face that day?
This is why I’ve been drawn to the writing game. I can’t help but want to speak to the issues I see good people endure when they take on the work of keeping cities and towns safe.
Not that authors have it so easy. It may seem sweet sitting in front of a computer most days. Yet when you take into consideration that many authors begin to write to confront their own demons, I guess the rookies in the publishing world had better be careful what they wish for.
Robert Sterling Hecker
Crime fiction author
For more information regarding this presentation, contact Chris Smith, manager of adult programming for the library, at (504) 889-8143 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Big Easy has long been a favorite locale for novelists and filmmakers. Yet Hurricane Katrina, now ten years in the past, has added a whole new dimension for storytellers.
Ava DuVernay, who directed the feature film Selma, has her eye on New Orleans. Participant Media revealed that she will write, direct and produce a story about love and murder with Hurricane Katrina as a focal point. Actor David Oyelowo, who portrayed Martin Luther King in Selma, may also be involved.
Can anyone blame artists for wanting to revisit the destructive days of Katrina? Recent ceremonies commemorating the heroes of that event reminded me how many deserving stories have not yet been told.
If we actually took a toll of how many movies and books have somehow used Katrina, the long list might dissuade some writers.
Best-selling N’awlins author James Lee Burke couldn’t resist the aftermath of HK in The Tin Roof Blowdown: A Dave Robicheaux Novel. The writers below also took on the apocalyptic wall of wind and rain:
· Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi
· Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
· One D.O.A., One on the Way by Mary Robison
· Map Of Moments by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
· Taken Away by Patty Friedmann
· Murder in the Rue Chartres by Greg Herren
· New Orleans Noir edited by Julie Smith
My debut novel The Accidental Vigilante does not include HK, but that doesn’t mean I won’t draw on it for future projects. And I know others will too.
And why not? Even without the fateful day that Katrina hit land, New Orleans resonates with fascinating people, cultures and settings. Also, crime continues to blemish the Crescent City in ways that are startling.
And the story of a city recovering from a near-death experience cannot help but draw on its history to illuminate why the new homes and buildings that have risen since 2005 are proud moments for people who were once in distress.
I wish DuVernay well with her unnamed project. And I welcome other artists to keep New Orleans in mind when considering where to set a new movie, TV show or book.
Robert Sterling Hecker
Now let us praise brave men and women who wear the badge. Many of these public servants lost their homes in the Katrina flood water, and for a time lost communication with their families.
Yet they continued to report for duty and provide the necessary police services to the city and the Port of New Orleans.
These heroes went above and beyond the call of duty, performing dangerous tasks far outside their job description.
Yet they never complained.
The Port of New Orleans is fortunate to employ such dedicated and conscientious police officers and firefighters. For that reason, on August 29, 2015 – the 10-year Anniversary of Katrina – I will announce that these 60 people will have their names placed on a Hall of Fame plaque.
This plaque will be displayed, on this day and forevermore, in the lobby of Harbor Police Headquarters.
For those heroes who attend our ceremony, I will also present a 10-year Katrina Anniversary Medal of Honor.
The Katrina emergency was an event like no other. The mass flooding, the rescue operations, death toll, chaos, gunfire, looting, Blackhawks hovering above …
… and the frantic radio chatter, lack of resources, unbearable heat, courage, cowardice, suicides, and the smell of mold that lingered throughout the city … all of this will forever haunt those of us who endured.
For those members of the Port of New Orleans Harbor Police along with the core group of first responders, who survived this history-making event and remained on scene for that emergency period after the storm, I am convinced you very likely saved our city and the port.
Now let us praise brave men and women who wear the badge.
I am extremely proud of each and every one of you and will never forget the blood, sweat and tears we endured as a family under duress, a team, a group of men and women who upheld their oath of office under the most difficult conditions.
Never leave the fight. Never give up.
And never forget the bravery these men and women showed in the face of disaster.
Thank you for your service to the City of New Orleans and the Port of New Orleans.
I am honored to be your chief.
IN MEMORIUM-- 1,577 NEW ORLEANS CITIZENS LOST THEIR LIVES DURING THE KATRINA DISASTER
Robert Sterling Hecker
‘Reality’ Crime may be the next wave of phony entertainment
New Orleans has some choice nicknames. Take your pick:
- The Big Easy
- The Crescent City
But the crime outbreak our city is suffering makes me wonder if Hollywood South isn’t the best.
Although most of us in law enforcement assumed the surveillance cameras modern technology provides would be a deterrent to shoot-outs and another broad daylight crimes, what if the YouTube generation of young criminals just wants to have fun — on videotape?
“It’s my brand,” you can imagine a sociopath saying. “I’ve got thousands of ‘likes’ on my Facebook page.”
Hollywood South, in case you don’t know, refers to the many feature films that have been shot here. Shot. No pun intended.
Unfortunately, some (but not all) experts are baffled as to why the footage NOLA cameras provide doesn’t seem to stop stupidity and sinful behavior.
Don’t get me wrong. If we have an image of an assailant wreaking havoc in public we’re more likely to make an apprehension. That still makes me wonder why the ‘reality’ show doesn’t entirely deter outrageous acts of violence.
Can you imagine a Twitter feed or Instagram site dedicated to a young criminal’s heinous acts? I can. In no way am I suggesting that you, a law-abiding citizen, should not engage with social media. Enjoy, if it suits you.
Yet in a society that lauds meritocracy when, it seems, notoriety often reaps the bigger reward, I must ask: Is there a new breed of people who see true crime as entertainment? If the answer is yes, more cameras won’t help. Psychological intervention may be where the funding must go.
A business colleague once told me, “You can’t fix stupid.”
Allow me to amend: “You may not be able to fix some young minds that have been irrevocably damaged by social circumstances.”
If the phenomenon New Orleans — The Big Easy, The Crescent City, N'awlins, NOLA, and Hollywood South —is experiencing is beyond the grasp of police work and the criminal justice system . . .
Consider this thought from oft-quoted poet and philosopher George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Allow me to amend: “Those who are entertained not appalled by recorded public memory —city videotape — are condemned to see endless acts of destructive behavior.”
Robert Sterling Hecker
Historically, New Orleans has had a high crime rate when compared to other American cities. Murders peaked in the mid-1990s, fell off, and then began to rise again in 2015.
“The 35 murders through last Friday represent a 94 percent jump compared to the same period in 2014 … Just as worrisome, the rise in deadly violence comes as the number of NOPD homicide detectives is at its lowest in five years -- raising questions about the department's ability to effectively handle the murder caseload. At stake could be the city's hope of extending a three-year decline in murders.”
— Ken Daley, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
City dwellers have read and heard so much about this topic over the years I would not be surprised if they become inured to the warnings.
I understand. It’s easy to get lulled into thinking crime is just a statistic that trends up or down. Rather than use numbers, I wish we could plot crime rates with pictures — of the deceased, the many victims and perps — because crime is not a statistic but a never-ending story of needless loss, grief and survival. It’s measured in pints of blood, in terrified voices screaming for help, and in the deep wounds suffered by the body and soul.
The Face of Crime
Statistics also don’t describe the evolving personality of crime. We see categories and assume the rapes and other types of assaults committed over time are all basically the same. Not so.
In early July in downtown New Orleans a man pulled out an automatic pistol and began shooting at a moving car. This was mid-day, in broad daylight. The sidewalks were crowded with pedestrians — witnesses — and the busy streets were jammed with motorists. This type of behavior is not typical of our city’s history of crime. It is incredibly brazen.
We live in a time when all eyes are watching. Surveillance cameras are numerous and, thankfully, capture the faces and activities of those who do wrong. But the technology didn’t stop the shooter from pulling out a weapon and spraying the street with bullets.
It would seem the shooter didn’t give a damn about being caught. And we will catch him. It’s inevitable. We have a video clip of his performance. Someone will turn him in, for money or revenge, or he’ll simply run out of hiding places. He’ll likely be convicted, sentenced to prison time and then what? Return to his life of crime and begin the cycle all over again?
100 State Troopers
Mayor Mitch Landrieu has order 100 state troopers to patrol the French Quarter. He fears this new rise in crime will harm tourism.
“New Orleans witnessed its 100th murder of 2015 a week ago. A 29 year-old local man was shot in his car in the French Quarter. The city did not see it’s 100th murder last year until late August. New Orleans had seen a decline in its murder rate the past three years.”
— JesseHardman, New Orleans Public Radio
Can’t blame him. If the presence of the troopers deters robberies, assaults and murder then city officials will likely find a way to fund this type of policing in 2016 and beyond.
But if it has no impact it may be an indication that criminals have quickly morphed into an even more threatening posture than brazen.
Robert Sterling Hecker
Years ago I attended some writing classes to explore what I hoped would be my next career. Authoring crime fiction was a natural choice for a man like me who has spent his entire career in law enforcement. I’ve seen a lot, and in the early days was surprised — no, shocked — by the cruelty and abundance of criminal activity.
Nothing surprises me now. But images linger, stories haunt, including the solved and unsolved crimes that have rocked New Orleans through the years.
And then there is the city’s history, its many characters and temperaments. As well as, Katrina and other acts of nature that have pummeled the community, and ungodly events that have shattered respect for law and order and decency.
It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. The inherent power of the written word became clear to me once I began working on my first crime fiction novel. The satisfaction was unlike any I had experienced when capturing perps or resolving conflicts. It ran deeper and exploded outward, like fireworks, simply by expressing fears, frustrations, pain and courage. Not mine, necessarily. But those of the characters I was creating. I found that whether writing with a pen, pencil or keyboard I could harvest some dark memories or demons, pull them apart for re-evaluation and cultivate them into fictional layers of new awareness. Redemption might be a way of describing the sensation of becoming a writer. Not for anything ill-begotten or mishandled on my part, but for the human beings with whom I’ve crossed paths and grieved for or celebrated.
The Criminal Mind
I began with NOPD and then accepted the position of Police Chief for the Harbor Police Department-Port of New Orleans in 1995. No regrets. I’ve been proud to serve.
My first novel certainly draws on my decades of experience, while not being bound to them. With pen in hand, I’m free to invent and create dramatic events that have not necessarily been pulled from the headlines of local media. The mind can run amok when given the chance.
Also, when retirement nears, a cop can’t help but realize that learning the rigors of law enforcement also demands an attempt to understand the criminal mind. We can’t stand in awe or fear of audacious incivility. We can’t simply wonder why oh why. No, the goal is to empathize just enough to get beyond the judgments that can blind us to the hunches and modest revelations about people that can solve mysteries.
Do I have a criminal mind? No. But I have a mind that by necessity has explored the unbearable and the unconscionable. Now it is time for all that distasteful human calamity to be forged into stories that free me and entertain my readers.
No hints yet as to the plot of my first book. Just don’t expect it to be pretty.
Robert Hecker, author
MSNBC did not get the spelling or pronunciation of my name right until the end of this interview with Chris Matthews. But I was pleased to be able to contribute to a report about the safety of America’s port cities.
Although my staff is a fraction of the NOPD force, I’m proud of the vigilance and resourcefulness of the people around me.
Robert Sterling Hecker