Criminologist worries about increasing N.O. violence

Criminologist worries about increasing N.O. violence

A violent weekend in New Orleans leads one criminologist to question just how successful police were this year at bringing down crime. While the city's murder rate is down, other incidents, like assaults and shootings, remain high.

on Sunday at around 8 a.m., 26-year-old Wendell Butler shot a 43-year-old man on Bourbon Street after the two apparently got into an argument over women. While no one was killed in the shooting, it still garnered a lot of attention because of where it happened and the time of day.

LSU criminologist Peter Scharf says high-profile shootings and murders add to the already present fear that most New Orleanians have. "Some of these aggravated assaults and murders occurred in more gentrified, middle-class areas," Scharf said.

Scharf says the NOPD is doing a good job of keeping the murder rate from increasing dramatically over last year. In fact, Scharf says the murder rate is down by about two percent. But the department faces monumental challenges. Scharf explains, "They're very thin in every area of law enforcement. The districts are three or four road officers at any one time even at peak periods."

Scharf believes those challenges are affecting the number of shootings and assaults in the city. According to the NOPD's website, armed robberies rose 14 percent in the second quarter of this year compared to the same time last year. By June, the number stood at 226. The 117 simple robberies increased over last year by 27 percent and assaults rose by 30 percent, bringing the total by mid-summer to 520.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond likens the crime on city streets to the Battle of New Orleans, fought 200 years ago. "We have a new battle that is before us now and it's a battle that we must fight through prayer and through our lives against violence and murder and racism," Aymond said.

As 2014 winds to a close, Scharf is already looking ahead to next year and hoping that the statistics before us now aren't repeated again.

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