City hopes 2016 results in a bigger police force

City hopes 2016 results in a bigger police force

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - With a stubborn murder problem, the city hopes a for bigger police force to battle crime in 2016.

The violent crime problem, coupled with the police shortage, leads some citizens to doubt the city's ability to fight crime.

"No one's going to catch me for anything if I were to happen to be breaking the law, so no. Yeah, I think we could stand to do a little bit more policing," said resident Scott Beckett.

Beckett lives in the Broadmoor neighborhood and knows firsthand the seriousness of the crime problem.

"Very serious incident on my street recently. You know, it was in the middle of the night, three in the morning," Beckett said.

Year-to-date numbers provided by the NOPD show the city is on pace to end 2015 with more murders than last year.

A look at the murder count in recent years:

Year 2015 - 162 murders to date.

Year 2014 - 151

Year 2013 - 155

Year 2012 - 188

Year 2011 - 197

Year 2010 - 173

As manpower remains an in issue, Mayor Mitch Landrieu proposed - and the City Council approved - a 2016 city budget that seeks to ease the shortfall by providing 15 percent pay increases for NOPD officers and money to hire 150 additional officers to bring the force to 1,266.

"It's a much more rapid process of getting someone to apply, tested, investigated and ready to start the academy," said Melanie Talia, chief executive officer of the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation.

She pointed to the fruits of aggressive recruitment efforts over the past year as an encouraging sign.

"Last year, NOPD saw about 2,200 applications for employment, and this year we are approaching 4,500, so the interest is definitely there," Talia said.

The NOPD maintains that it is on track to train four recruit classes this year. In January 2015, Recruits Class #172 began with 30 recruits, and that class graduated in September. In June, Class #173 with 33 recruits began training, and that class is set to graduate. Class #174 with 32 recruits began in October and continues its training.

"Class number 175 starts two o'clock Wednesday afternoon, so there is a lot happening," Talia said.

And the Police Foundation believes that the increase in pay for New Orleans police officers will help the NOPD better compete with departments in other states.

"It puts us ahead of Atlanta and it makes us competitive with Dallas," Talia said.

Beckett said he would welcome more police on the streets to crackdown on offenses that he believes go unchecked.

"General road safety, safety for bicyclists," he said.

Copyright 2015 WVUE. All rights reserved.