NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Emotions ran high when someone shot a man and woman in Algiers Christmas night. The man died. Off camera, desperate family members called out for the public’s help in the case.
That murder was just one of several violent events around the city in the final days of 2018. By Dec. 31, police had investigated 145 murders across New Orleans. It’s the city’s lowest murder count since the 1970s. Looking back over the past three years, the city’s murder count has dropped from 174 in 2016 to 145 last year.
“Violence, in general, is down across the country,” said Dillard University criminologist Ashraf Esmail.
Esmail said the NOPD focused a lot of effort on reducing the murder rate in New Orleans, and it’s paying off. So far this year, police have investigated 20 homicides compared to 40 at the same time last year. Esmail said former Police Chief Michael Harrison put policies in place that he believes are helping today.
“He put a lot of importance on having cameras around the city and really focusing on repeat offenders, watching the activity that they are engaging in,” Esmail said.
So far in 2019, homicides have fallen the most in the Fifth District, which includes the Lower and Upper Ninth Ward. At this point, only one person has been killed, compared to seven at the same time in 2018.
“The other thing that’s really changed is more tips are coming in. Chief Harrison always mentioned that more tips are coming in to assist them,” Esmail said.
He said the community’s trust in law enforcement always goes a long way.
“They put the consent decree in place in 2012 focusing on some of the things like response time, police brutality and violence. It’s been effective. It comes with law enforcement following those procedures. We see more people having trust, so the more tips I think has helped,” Esmail said.
Esmail also believes keeping internal leadership in place was a good idea.
“I think it’s why Mayor Cantrell stayed internal with hiring Chief Ferguson now to maintain that consistency, to maintain what they’re doing,” Esmail said.
“It’s now my job to build upon that," Chief Shaun Ferguson said. "I want to see a little more thoroughness in our investigations to identify or get a better case on those who are choosing to commit these violent crimes. If we can get a great case on them, and hopefully if they are the more serial habitual offenders, that will help reduce that crime tremendously.”
In all of last year, police investigated 238 shooting incidents. That’s way down from he 332 shootings in 2017.
“When you look at non-fatal shootings, to me, it’s the intent to shoot and kill someone. So, I look at the homicide rate and shootings, and I combine them, and all of those number are down,” Esmail said.
The number of non-fatal shooting are also down across the city. Since Jan. 1, police investigated 32 shootings, while there were 40 incidents in the same time period last year. Still, Esmail points out, there are way too many murder and shooting victims in New Orleans.
“For 29 years, we were number 1 per capita in the country for homicides, and now we’re fourth. We still are way too high in terms of victims per population. It’s staggering,” Esmail said.
He said we shouldn’t compare ourselves to ourselves in terms of numbers.
“Dallas is much lower, and it’s three times our size," Esmail said. "So, while I think we are doing a good job - obviously, any decline is good - we need to keep doing what we’re doing, and hopefully get our numbers down below 100. That’s what we should be seeing for our population size - not the number of a Chicago.”