DA to pull investigators from homicide scenes amid budget cuts

DA to pull investigators from homicide scenes amid budget cuts

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro will pull all investigators and assistant district attorneys from homicide scenes after his operating budget was cut by $600,000. The move comes as we uncover, in a FOX 8 exclusive, the NOPD's arrest rate for homicides committed this year stands at just 23 percent.

So far this year there have been 159 homicides in Orleans Parish. Today, according to the NOPD, only 36 arrests have been made.

"When you don't arrest murder suspects, then you start to see street justice kick in, retaliatory shootings," Metropolitan Crime Commission President Rafael Goyeneche said.

"We kinda have a little pressure on us this year compared to last year," NOPD Commander Doug Eckert said.

Eckert said community participation, or lack thereof, contributes to the statistics.

"Look, all help we can get we accept, and the ultimate goal for this unit is to clear these cases," he said.

Right now, homicide detectives work hand-in-hand with investigators from the district attorney's office who respond to homicide scenes no matter the day or time.

"They get the police reports to us quicker, and as a result of that we're able to make more quality cases, better quality cases and we're seeing better results in the court," Cannizzaro said.

The D.A. said his office has a 90 percent conviction rate this year. Yet earlier this month, the City Council slashed the D.A.'s budget by $600,000 for 2017.

"My office was the only one cut of all of the players in criminal justice," Cannizzaro said.

It's a move the D.A. can't understand, although he said he has been criticized in the past for accepting too many cases.

"I'm concerned whether my office is being cut or not because some people in the council or the administration feel we're doing our job too well," Cannizzaro said.

As a result of the cuts, the D.A. is pulling all investigators from crime scenes, citing a lack of money to pay for the overtime.

"The city is finding an additional $8 million in city funding for the police department, but they're cutting the district attorney's office by $600,000. That is not going to improve public safety, that's going to be a detriment to public safety," Goyeneche said.

And it could be an added blow to the NOPD homicide unit's collaboration with the D.A.'s office as the NOPD struggles to clear cases and the murder rate continues to rise.

A spokesperson for the NOPD said the department is not concerned about district attorney's office employees being pulled from homicide scenes, as their detectives will continue to conduct thorough investigations.

While the arrest rate stands at 23 percent for homicides this year, the department points out that some homicides are considered "cleared" if a suspect dies or if a warrant is issued for their arrest.

The City Council released a statement to FOX 8 saying that many budgets across the city were cut, not just the D.A.'s, and that the council repeatedly asked the D.A. to explore new performance measures based on national best practices. But they said it hasn't happened.

Council members said the D.A., like all departments, must find effective alternatives.

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