NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - There's a war of words between U.S. Senator John Kennedy and Mayor Mitch Landrieu over crime in New Orleans.
Sen. Kennedy didn't hold back Wednesday when talking about crime in New Orleans during the confirmation hearing of Christopher Wray, President Trump's nominee for FBI Director.
"We have an extraordinary crime problem in New Orleans.We're rapidly becoming the murder and armed robbery capital of the Western hemisphere," said Kennedy, R-Louisiana.
"Can I count on you to give us a little advice and help? We're wrestling with a huge crime problem and we're losing," Kennedy asked Wray during the hearing.
"Well, senator, you can count on me to take a hard look and figure out how we can be more effective in New Orleans, just like we need to figure out how we can be effective in every city that's targeted by violent crime," responded Wray.
But Landrieu blasted Kennedy's comments in a statement, saying in part, "I have been to too many funerals and consoled too many mothers at crime scenes, for a career politician like John Kennedy to pander from the peanut gallery, especially when he can actually do something to help."
The mayor also said murder and violent crime rates are down more than 60 percent from their historic peak in the 90s. But LSU criminoloist Dr. Peter Scharf has a problem with that comparison.
"We are the murder capital of the United States," he said. "You know, the comparing the numbers to the 90s is just silly because at the end of the Pennington changes ending in 1999, we had 159 murders. We're going to be way above that this year."
And, according to NOPD numbers, homicides in New Orleans are up by 36%, aggravated assaults increased by 22%, while shootings jumped by 52% compared to this time last year.
"We desperately need help, but who has the fiscal resources to turn this around? In the 90s when the murder totals went from 424 to 159, the Morial administration and Chief Pennington, I worked with them, got roughly $60 million in more funding to hire officers, to gain technology, to gain training," said Scharf.
We also reached out to the NOPD about this story. In a statement the department said:
"The officers of the NOPD are focused relentlessly on stopping crime and keeping the people of New Orleans safe. We are making arrests every day, and we are out in force every night fighting to bring criminals to justice. That means proactive police work, smart deployment strategies, and a dedication to building trust with the community we serve."