NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - 168 People were killed on the streets of New Orleans so far this year.
“This year, we know and acknowledge that homicides are up,” says NOPD Police Chief Shaun Ferguson.
It’s an 87 percent spike, according to the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
“What we’re seeing is an explosion of violent crime in the city,” says Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
At the same time last year, 90 people were killed.
“These are not random acts,” says Goyeneche.
Also surging is aggravated battery, which includes shootings. It’s up 37 percent.
“These are competing factions that are hunting each other down and gunning each other down in broad daylight. Sometimes they don’t shoot straight. Sometimes there’s collateral damage when innocent victims get in the line of fire and lose their lives,” says Goyeneche.
Carjackings are happening in the middle of the day in a matter of seconds.
“It was, 'oh *expletive* when I saw the ski mask. I was like this can’t be real. He looked at me. I remember his eyes, and he looked right at me and came straight at me,” says a carjacking victim.
That victim was lucky to escape. She didn’t become one of the 167 carjacking victims so far this year.
“He pointed a gun to my face and I leaned over to the side and hit the gas and took off,” says the victim.
Carjackings are up 102 percent.
Rafael Goyeneche says competing drug gang organizations are the driving force behind the city’s violence, especially murders and shootings.
“This is not just one or two gangs. These are multiple gangs in multiple neighborhoods across all of the districts in the city of New Orleans right now,” says Goyeneche.
Meanwhile, the NOPD is making 16 percent fewer arrests for homicides this year compared to last.
“If the offender is not arrested in connection with that offense then that means they are free to go out and prey on and victimize other citizens,” says Goyenche.
Aggravated battery arrests are down 35 percent, while arrests overall are down 50 percent. The NOPD says overall arrests are down because of the call to issue summons for some misdemeanor offenses instead of arrests.
The public’s demand for the NOPD’s service, though, remains high with an average of 33 thousand 911 calls every month.
“The police department couldn’t respond to that before the pandemic because of the manpower crisis and they couldn’t get to all of those calls for service, so the furloughing of police officers right now just means more citizens are going to have their calls for service not responded to,” says Goyeneche.
As the city deals with a financial crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic, every city worker, including NOPD officers received a 10 percent pay cut.
“I was told that there were five officers that resigned last week and I confirmed that several of those have been hired in Jefferson Parish,” says Goyeneche.
“Are NOPD officers leaving the force?” says Natasha Robin.
Eric Hessler sayd, “Unfortunately they are, and they’re leaving at a lot quicker rate than usual.”
PANO attorney Eric Hessler says the furlough have caused NOPD officers to resign and in some cases, retire early.
“The furloughs, a 10 percent pay cut, when you combine that with the fact that the details and the ability to earn extra income through details and overtimes has been obliterated, yeah, it’s causing a financial strain on veterans and rookies.”
He says it’s happening at a time when the city needs them the most.
“With the amount of calls for service and everything else that’s going on, that’s significant and if you put that on top of crime that’s rising, it’s a recipe for disaster,” says Hessler.
“So losing those officers is a setback for the city of New Orleans, and it’s counter-productive to the financial decisions. The mayor is saying violent crime is unacceptable and the police department now has less resources to respond to the crime demands,” says Goyeneche.
“Believe me when I tell you, that they are out there, they’re trying but a lot of instances, their hands are tied,” says Hessler.
With a rising homicide rate, financial constraints and officers leaving the department, there’s concern about how much worse it will get.
“Essentially we’re having a hurricane of violent crime in 2020 and there’s no end in sight,” says Goyeneche.
We reached out to the NOPD for comment about our story. The NOPD sent this statement.
Superintendent Shaun Ferguson has on several occasions stated that there is no one factor that can be identified as the single cause for a recent increase in violent crime that is plaguing not only New Orleans but several other cities across the country.
Additionally, as Covid-19 cases increased in New Orleans and globally, NOPD heeded the call for fewer arrests and issue summons in lieu of physical arrest whenever possible.
The NOPD, working closely with our federal and state partners continues to bring the perpetrators of violent crime to justice and provide a safe environment for our citizens.
We have assessed our manpower and compared pre-furlough and furlough schedules. We have noticed only a minimal impact. Through smart, intentional scheduling we may lose one officer per shift, but in many cases, we may not lose any. These are challenging times for our officers, but we will get through this together.
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