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‘This is a crisis’: New Orleans murder rate per capita pacing highest in U.S.

So far this year, New Orleans is on pace to have a higher per capita murder rate than Birmingham, Baltimore and St. Louis.
Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 5:13 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It’s no secret that New Orleans struggles with violent crime, but new statistics paint a grim picture of the Crescent City being on pace to be the murder capital of the United States if trends don’t change in 2022.

According to data from AH Datalytics, compiled using the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, New Orleans has a per capita year-to-date homicide rate of 72 per 100,000 residents. The next three U.S. cities behind New Orleans are Birmingham with a per capita homicide rate of 59 per 100,000 residents and Baltimore and St. Louis, each with a per capita homicide rate of 58 per 100,000 residents.

The jump in the city’s homicide rate comes after a 50-year low in 2019 when New Orleans had just 121 homicides.

The report also shows data comparing the 2019-2022 increase in per capita homicide rates by city, with New Orleans far outpacing other cities at 40 per 100,000 residents. Milwaukee comes in second, with an increase of 20 homicides per 100,000 residents.

“Would you classify crime in this city as a crisis?” asked FOX 8′s David Jones in an exclusive interview with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

“I would say that public safety is a priority and requires a holistic approach based on the incidents that you just spoke about, and that has been our way,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell’s hesitation to call the crime situation in New Orleans a crisis doesn’t come as a surprise to Robert Collins, a political analyst with Dillard University. He says political leaders may want to avoid words like “crisis” because of the negative connotation that comes with it.

“We see that the mayor and other city leaders don’t really understand the magnitude of the problem,” Collins said. “The elected leaders in the city don’t seem to have the same opinion that the majority of the citizens have in the city, as far as the city is in crisis mode right now and that they should be taking the appropriate emergency actions.”

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According to the Metropolitan Crime Commission, New Orleans police have investigated 135 homicides this year as of Monday, June 13.

In the 1990s, New Orleans experienced a violent crime wave that made national headlines. In 1995, the city counted 363 homicides by year’s end. But the pre-Katrina population was around 100,000 residents higher.

“We’re on pace, if we keep this pace, to have the most murders since the 90s,” said FOX 8′s David Jones.

“That’s not true. That’s not true at all,” Mayor Cantrell responded. “This is something the police, my superintendent spoke on yesterday. You can look at the pace now, the pace now is not the full year. I think that looking at the data from month to month, week to week, you can see areas and signs of true progress based on the key arrests police officers have made. Relative to our trends, no way. No way.”

On Wednesday, New Orleans City Councilman JP Morrell grilled NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson on his department’s progress toward cutting the homicide rate.

“Just using homicide, year to date, we are trending higher this year than any year since the 1990s,” Morrell said.

“Possibly so, I haven’t looked that far back. Now I won’t say, come on now, 1990s, we’re looking at 1990s, we had as many as 400 homicides,” Ferguson responded. “We’re not trending that high.”

Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, said city leaders have ignored the problems for more than two years, leading to NOPD’s current manpower shortage and the increase in New Orleans’ homicide rate.

“You’ve got two components of the criminal justice system: dwindling numbers of officers, that means they can’t get to crime scenes and when they do get to crime scenes, they are overwhelmed with violent crime,” he said. “If they’re fortunate enough to make an arrest, we have the District Attorney’s office that, at least in 2021, the first year of Jason Williams, was more inclined to refuse and dismiss those cases.”

Goyeneche said the nature of violent crime and murder has changed since the 1990s crime wave.

“If the streets were flooded with water to the extent they’re flooded with violent crime right now, we’d be moving heaven and earth to pump the water out,” he said. “We’ve been ignoring the flood of violent crime for two and a half years. We just put on some hip boots and are walking through it.”

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