NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The NOPD says murders in the first quarter of this year were up 70% compared to the same time last year. There were 30 homicides in the first three months of 2016 compared to 51 this year.
"We did see an increase in violent crime, namely homicides and shootings. What we can say is the majority of those shootings are persons who know one another. The majority of the homicides are going to be persons who know one another," said NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison.
Harrison spoke to the City Council's Criminal Justice Committee on Thursday. He says drugs are contributing to the violence.
"This heroin and opioid epidemic is fueling a lot of it, but not all of it. But certainly it is the core of it, and we're doing everything we can with our state and federal partners to attack it as aggressively as we can," said Harrison.
While assaults, including shootings, have increased by 18%, armed robberies are down 21% and rapes have decreased by nearly 31%.
However, clearance rates for murders are down from 41% last year to 31.5% this year.
"I had read - and you can correct me if I am wrong - that the national clearance rate is like 62% so, could you speak to that difference?" asked Councilwoman Susan Guidry.
"The members of our homicide team are very dedicated, highly skilled individuals and we are proud of the work they do, they work very, very hard. When you look at the clearance rates, this also again, and while we don't make excuses, and while I never shift blame, it is a challenge that we have, even with the non-fatal shootings, where there are instances where the only piece of evidence that exists is a witness testimony," Harrison answered.
Harrison said the decreasing clearance rates for shootings has to do with victims not cooperating with police. But, he says investigators are getting the information they need when it comes to solving and reducing armed robberies.