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By Dave Walker
Times-Picayune

NEW ORLEANS - Soledad O'Brien and a CNN crew came to town in the spring to report on violent crime.
The resulting documentary, "CNN Presents: One Crime at a Time," premieres Saturday at 7 p.m. on the network, with repeats Sunday at 7 and 11 p.m. and Monday at 1 a.m.
It's not pretty. CNN embedded with the New Orleans Police Department on a weekend in which homicide detectives handled seven killings.
"Our perspective was not, 'Let's focus in on this case or that case,' " O'Brien said in phone interview this week. "Those were cases that were unfolding as we were camped out there. But we thought they told the story."
From the beginning, however, CNN's focus was not to produce another national media report on New Orleans' seemingly ongoing and out-of-control street-murder crisis.
"I don't know if I would've tackled that story," O'Brien said. "I get to kind of pick what I do. If it were, 'Let's go do a big, giant crime story in New Orleans,' that's not interesting to me. I don't really cover a lot of crime. My perspective was, 'Show me the people there, sticking it out and trying to make a difference.' "
Accordingly, the documentary tells parallel tales of individual murders beside profiles of detectives and prosecutors toiling to solve the problem of violent crime.
In addition, the special links street crime with the demonstrable local penchant for civic corruption and "bureaucratic sluggishness," in O'Brien's words -- a unique angle that also folds in interviews with New Orleans Inspector General Robert Cerasoli and U.S. Attorney Jim Letten.
"The overall picture for us was, is there a link between crime -- violent crime, the street crime you're seeing -- and corruption, and who's working on the front lines of that?"
To O'Brien, the hour's take-away is hopeful.
"Overall, there's no question that for me it's hopeful," she said. "I personally was interested in covering the story as a documentary because I felt it was hopeful.
"I think the people who are there have to be hopeful, otherwise they would've left. Under the circumstances you all are dealing with, and with some of the fair-to-describe-it-as chaos in that city, you have to be incredibly hopeful and incredibly confident in how it's ultimately going to end up or you're not going to make it."

Wire Service
 
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