'Freedia Got a Gun': What is Project NOLA? Big Freedia helped install 1st gunshot-detection cam in New Orleans

On the one-year anniversary of Ross's death, Project NOLA installed the city's first gunshot-detection crime camera on Martin Luther King Boulevard, where Freedia's brother was shot


                            'Freedia Got a Gun': What is Project NOLA? Big Freedia helped install 1st gunshot-detection cam in New Orleans
Big Freedia (World of Wonder/Peacock)

Adam Ross was killed in Central City, New Orleans, during a shooting in January 2018. Till now, Ross's killers have not been apprehended. Adam Ross's murder made headlines because he was the younger brother of bounce legend Big Freedia, who is known for her collaborations with New Kids on the Block, Jordin Sparks, Naughty by Nature and Boyz II Me, and for her work in providing additional vocals to artists such as Beyonce and Drake. Ross's murder devastates Freedia, who then set to use her platform to raise awareness about the complexities of gun violence, a nationwide epidemic that continues to disproportionally harm Black communities.

Freedia's journey to do so is the subject of the documentary, 'Freedia Got a Gun', which is now available on Peacock, NBC's streaming platform. In the documentary, Freedia talks about her experiences growing up gay in New Orleans and how gun violence has affected her life and the lives of those in the Black community in New Orleans for years. Featuring first-hand accounts of activists, teachers, victims and even former perpetrators, 'Freedia Got a Gun' delves into the problem of gun violence in New Orleans.

There have been many measures taken to help reduce the number of people killed by firearms and of them is featured in the documentary. Known as Project NOLA, the nonprofit camera system was designed by criminologist and former NOPD police officer, Bryan Legarde, to help decrease crime by dramatically increasing the efficiency of the New Orleans Police Department. Introduced in 2010, the Project NOLA camera system frequently provides vital real-time situational awareness to police officers and detectives responding to major crimes and dangerous situations. The program, which is based at the University of New Orleans, provides cameras to residents, businesses, and municipalities to help reduce crime by dramatically increasing police efficiency and citizen awareness. Under the program, residents and business owners can request the cameras -- which are equipped with gunshot detection and license plate recognition -- to be installed at their home or business.

By 2014, Project NOLA had installed over 1,000 cameras in the Orleans Parish and by 2019, that number rose to over 2,500. The system has proven effective in catching many perpetrators. For instance, video captured from the camera outside the city’s Public Safety Center served as key evidence during the investigation of the death by shooting of Officer Robert McKeithen in 2019. Each year, Project NOLA directly helps in over 100 felony investigations.

Since 2010, Project NOLA has helped investigate over 300 murders, thousands of felony crimes, and countless violent drug gangs. In 2018, Project NOLA helped the New Orleans Police Department reduce the murder rate in New Orleans to a 47-year-low while also helping communities across America see huge double-digit reductions in non-fatal shootings and robberies, according to its website.

On the one-year anniversary of Ross's death, Project NOLA installed the city's first gunshot-detection crime camera on Martin Luther King Boulevard, where Ross was shot. The camera and installation were sponsored by Big Freedia. The gunshot-detecting cameras allow Project NOLA staff to more quickly alert the NOPD to active gunfire, identify gunmen, and provide life-saving real-time supplemental information to responding units. The new cameras can detect when a gun is fired, allowing a faster response rate to violent crime.

'Freedia Got a Gun' is available to stream on Peacock on October 15.

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