NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - With more than four months left in 2019, Jefferson Parish has already seen a 40 percent increase in homicides, with a total of 35 victims so far this year, compared to 25 in total the year before.
But, according to criminologist Ashrah Esmail, comparing those two numbers alone may be a little misleading.
“Last year, we had 25 murders total, which if you look at the trend, that was the lowest we’ve had in a long time. I guess if you compare one year to the next, there’s an uptick, but not that significant,” Esmail said.
And, when looking at the average murder rate in the parish over a 45-year period, Sheriff Joe Lopinto said this year’s number doesn’t look so extreme.
“The average is 37 per year, and we’ve been as high as 66 in Jefferson Parish. In many years, we saw 50s and 40s, so it’s not an unusual year compared to our average number over the years,” Lopinto said.
Furthermore, in some of the homicide cases this year there were multiple victims, which Esmail said can also skew numbers. Just last week, a quadruple shooting in Marrero killed two people, one of them a 7-year-old girl. Four people were also killed in March, in a brutal Terrytown hammer attack.
“We’ve had more quadruple and triple murders, which sometimes upticks the numbers rather than giving you the actual picture, when you have three or four in one situation than we’ve had in the past,” Esmail said.
Lopinto said in the past few years, he’s doubled the size of the department’s Shoot Squad, a team of deputies that investigate non-homicide cases.
“The fact of it is, I look at those trends and see where it stands over a period of time and see what we can really do about it,” Lopinto said.
He said the squad’s purpose is to stop retaliatory shooting or murders by targeting those involved in criminal activity. And, he said, the parish’s crime is actually decreasing, despite the increase in murder victims.
“Our violent crime overall consists of four categories: murder, rape, robbery and assaults. Violent crime right now is down 19.7 percent,” Lopinto said.
Additionally, Lopinto said his deputies solved 88 percent of the murders this year.
Note: After this story was published, another homicide was reported in Marrero.