‘Unprecedented crime wave’: New Orleans leaders address latest surge in violence, vow to pursue change
City leaders decried the violent crime surge during a ceremony honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The word of the day when it comes to addressing crime in New Orleans: Collaboration.
On Monday, city leaders came together for a wreath ceremony honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. During the ceremony they addressed the city’s second pandemic, which comes in the form of a crime wave.
New Orleans City Council is holding a special meeting on Monday at 10 a.m. to discuss possible solutions to the ongoing violence, and New Orleans Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson will address the council at their regular meeting on Thursday.
“One of the things we know Dr. King stood for was non-violence,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “Let’s focus on how we can lift up justice where we live, amongst ourselves, amongst our own people. This is what we need to do right here, and right now.”
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As one of its first tasks, the city council, filled with mostly new faces. will take up the herculean task that is crime and its root causes. But while leaders talk, the crime is only getting worse.
According to data from the Metropolitan Crime Commission (MCC), there have been 36 car jackings since the start of the year, through Monday, January 17. It represents a 157 percent jump from last year, when there were 14 in the same time period, and a 620 percent jump since 2020, when there were 5 in the same time period.
The car jackings aren’t limited to any neighborhood or community in the city either.
“December leading to January we have seen an unusual uptick in car jackings,” NOPD Chief Shaun Ferguson said.
As for other violent crimes, MCC data shows, since the beginning of the year, there have been 14 homicides, 29 shootings and 30 armed robberies. Each of those categories is up when compared to last year, 2020 and 2019.
The bulletin breaking down the numbers and featuring maps of the crime reported year-to-date can be found here.
“The police department has reached critical mass, and they cannot respond to all of the crime,” said Rafael Goyeneche, President of the MCC. “The police department, even with their diminished resources, are focusing their resources on the most serious felony offenders - violent felony offenders - but the criminal justice system isn’t doing its job in holding those people accountable.”
Goyeneche said offenders, once arrested, are often out on bond within days. The suspects also receive a reduced bond in many cases, he said.
Chief Ferguson went after the “revolving door” culture, saying NOPD can make arrests but without accountability, there’s no incentive not to do wrong.
“We can make all of the arrests we want. Until the back portion of this criminal justice system does its part in ensuring accountability and ensuring consequences to their actions, we’re gonna continue to spin our wheels,” he said. “It’s not just frustrating to the officers, it’s frustrating to the citizens of this city to see that we are arresting and re-arresting. However, this is what we’ve taken an oath to do and will continue to do just that.”
District Attorney Jason Williams’ office has stood by its record. In a statement provided to Fox 8, Williams touted his office’s rate of accepting and prosecuting individuals.
“In the last 9 months, the DA’s Office has accepted and is prosecuting 95% of murder cases; 100% of manslaughter cases; 77% of robbery cases; and 70% of car theft cases,” Williams said. “On the other hand, FBI data on NOPD’s performance on actually solving violent crime paint a very different picture than the Chief’s rhetoric blaming of everyone else in the criminal legal system. In 2020, the NOPD only solved 30% of murders; 35% of robberies; and only 8% of car thefts.”
Goyeneche said the issue stems from things like bond reductions and the lack of opposition to those reductions, the lowering of charges, and prosecutorial discretion when it comes to things like the state’s habitual offender’s statute. When enforced, the law allows prosecutors to seek tougher punishments for repeat offenders.
On top of the problem of repeat criminals on the streets, Goyeneche said, NOPD officers are underpaid.
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“We need to pump up recruitment, we need to slow down attrition. The way you do that is raises factored in over a four to five-year period of time,” he said.
Meanwhile, leaders of city council talked on Monday of the need for all aspects of the city’s criminal justice system to be “collaborative.”
Oliver Thomas, chair of council’s Criminal Justice Committee, suggested possible solutions, including inter-agency agreements with levee and harbor police, and the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office being more involved in low-level felony arrests.
“Let me be the low man on the totem pole if the chief can be successful. Let me be the low politician on the totem pole if our kids can be safe. Let me never be elected to anything again if we can have a safe, wholesome community,” Thomas said. “If you can’t be safe, you can’t be anything. And this isn’t time for feelings to be hurt, for political one upsmanship, for folks to worry about what they gone be next. It’s time to make sure our babies can live.”
In his statement, Williams faults NOPD’s record of evidence collection, saying his office can’t get a conviction of a suspect “without an arrest and good evidence.”
Williams’ statement, in full, reads:
“In the last 9 months, the DA’s Office has accepted and is prosecuting 95% of murder cases; 100% of manslaughter cases; 77% of robbery cases; and 70% of car theft cases.
On the other hand, FBI data on NOPD’s performance on actually solving violent crime paint a very different picture than the Chief’s rhetoric blaming of everyone else in the criminal legal system. In 2020, the NOPD only solved 30% of murders; 35% of robberies; and only 8% of car thefts.
The truth is the DA’s Office is laser focused on increasing safety and prosecuting violent crime. No matter how many times the Police Chief attempts to point the finger at anyone else, the data doesn’t support his rhetoric.
People are rightly frustrated that too many of their cases are not being solved with strong evidence that will allow for violent offenders to be taken off the street by a jury or a judge. You can’t convict someone without an arrest and good evidence.
We don’t need finger pointing, the people want and need us to work together and provide leadership that will make their families safer.
The DA’s office is steadfastly committed to prosecuting all violent crimes in the city of New Orleans as well as working collaboratively with all city leaders to pursue new and necessary strategies to combat the clear and present danger of this current crime surge.”
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