CrimeTracker Investigation: Armed robberies in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Every year in the city of New Orleans, hundreds of people become armed robbery victims.

"I was scared like my heart dropped. It really dropped," says one victim.

"He pulled out a gun and said, give me the keys to your car," says another victim.

Victims of armed robbery say they fee terrified and violated. Often, they say the experience changed their lives.

FOX 8 began tracking armed robberies across the city more than 18 months ago, breaking down the numbers to show exactly where the violent crimes were happening and how often.

In this CrimeTracker Investigation, FOX 8 obtained and analyzed every incident report number, location and time of day for armed robberies across the city from Jan. 1 2014 until late June. We also examined NOPD's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data. That data shows a dramatic increase in armed robbery incidents from 2013 to 2014, a 37 percent spike.

“Today’s criminals are far more brazen than they used to be, and with a shrinking police department and our resources stretched thin, perhaps they took advantage of that,” says NOPD Chief Michael Harrison.

Police tell FOX 8 that in most cases, the same gunman will commit multiple armed robberies until he'a caught.

"They began committing armed robberies in the daylight areas where we didn't use to see them," Harrison says.

We created a map showing the sheer number of incidents. The gun icon represents armed robberies with a gun. The knife icon represents armed robberies with a knife, and cars represent carjackings.

In all of last year, there were 1,022 incidents, according to the UCR data from NOPD.

The highest concentration of armed robberies in 2014 were in the French Quarter and Marigny. It's also the place where thousands of tourists visit each year. In fact, from Esplanade to Canal Street on Bourbon, police investigated 10 armed robberies in 2014.

Less than a week into 2015, armed gunmen busted into Buffa's Bar and Restaurant on Esplanade in the Marigny. The bar was full of patrons.

"He used a gun to push patrons' heads to the bar and he got their wallets," says Jarret Rogers.

Frustration began to grow among those who live and work in the area.

"We put some initiatives in place at the end of December. We put the task force in place with eight members. We saw some successes because we were apprehending some of the persons committing those robberies. We then increased the task force to 16 members," Harrison says.

Reserve officers, along with State Troopers and NOLA Patrol, began patrolling the French Quarter, targeting armed robbery suspects in the Eighth District. FOX 8 looked specifically at those numbers in the Eighth District from the same time period.

Here's how it breaks down: During the second half of 2014, 162 armed robberies occurred. That number decreased in the past six months with 127 incidents.

"The visibility increased. You'll see police cars because there are just more officers, and so as we grow more officers, we grow more in the French Quarter," Harrison says.

While it's a reduction, there are more armed robberies in the Eighth than in any other district in the city.

We also have a map showing all 406 armed robberies from the first six months of this year. To really see what's going on, you have to zoom in to a neighborhood.

Some districts show a dramatic decrease.

Take the Sixth District that covers the Irish Chanel, Central City and the Garden District, where armed robberies were nearly cut in half from 45 in the last six months of 2014 to 20 so far this year.

Look at the Fourth District of Algiers, where 39 armed robberies were reported during the last half of 2014. So far this year, the NOPD has investigated 12.

"We were able to take the street gang unit and add them to the Fourth District. We were able to take the SWAT team and tactical unit and put them there. There were narcotic units working there for some time," Harrison says.

It's a far different story in the Third District, which covers Lakeview and Gentilly. The numbers went up 26 percent compared to the same time period last year.

In the Second District of Uptown, the numbers rose from 25 the first six months of 2014, to 32 the second half of the year, to 42 over the last six months. That's a 68 percent increase.

"I think criminals are just that brazen these days. They seem to be not afraid of the police. They appear to want to commit these acts in broad daylight, but we want to send the message to them that we are going to pursue you relentlessly, and we are going to catch you and we are going to stop you," Harrison says Chief Harrison.

Even with a committed focus by the NOPD to stop it, hundreds of people have already become victims so far this year. Hundreds more will likely be held up before 2015 is over.

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