NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As New Orleans' murder rate continues to climb, the size of the department in charge of solving the crimes, shrinks.
That's how many detectives worked in the NOPD's homicide division last year. "Homicide detectives are like old wine, they take a long time to get good," LSU criminologist Peter Scharf, Ph.D., commented.
Today, there are only 20 detectives and the unit has lost one of it's sergeants. Keeping that experience in such a crucial unit has proved difficult. \
"Some of them are going, I understand, to the State Police, others are going to other departments," Scharf explained.
Just this past weekend, the homicide division was dealt another blow when two different detectives were involved in separate incidents, one being placed on administrative duty, the other on emergency suspension.
Thomas Ripp, 31, crashed his unmarked police unit into a cement light pole Sunday morning, and was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. Timothy Bender shot a suspect to death Saturday morning in the 9th ward, after investigators say a physical altercation left him fearing for his life. The public integrity bureau is looking into the shooting.
"Once you start losing your specialized resources, the risks of increased murders are significant," Scharf said.
Higher case loads mean solvability rates drop. Silence is Violence executive director Tamara Jackson says victims' families are frustrated.
"The family want answers, they're not concerned that NOPD doesn't have enough manpower, they're not concerned about that," Jackson said.
When it takes five to six years of training before an officer even makes it into the unit, Scharf says don't expect the homicide division to rebound any time soon. With murder on the rise compared to this time last year, the load isn't getting any lighter for a manpower strapped division.
The NOPD is working to recruit, hire and train quality officers, prioritizing the homicide division and special victims section. It will continue to invest more manpower and resources in those areas, according to a spokesman with the department.