During 2006, there were 161 homicides in New Orleans, 106 of which occurred in the last six months of the year. And this with the population having dropped from 444,000 to 191,000, or 57%! Most alarming is that about two-thirds of these murders have gone unsolved, leaving killers to roam the streets, likely to kill again.
The violence reached such a fever pitch that on January 11 of this year over 3,000 frustrated residents marched on city hall in protest. Unsure who to blame, they displayed outrage toward the police department, the district attorney’s office, Mayor Ray Nagin, and even the federal government for not offering more assistance.
In response to the march, city officials proposed more reforms in hopes of curbing the increase in violence. New initiatives include expanding neighborhood watch programs, installing crime cameras throughout the city, increasing drug and alcohol checkpoints, and a variety of changes in the judicial system and law enforcement.
Will these reforms make a difference?
Local District Attorney Eddie Jordan does not believe they will, stating, “It is an insurmountable problem.” He places the blame on shoddy police work and a general mistrust of the police department by locals, fueled by a history of police brutality as well as miscues in the days after Hurricane Katrina.
Retaliation against the few witnesses who are willing to testify against murderers has further hampered investigations.
New Orleans police blame the increased violence on drugs, drug deals gone awry (mostly related to crack cocaine) and an environment in which youth can make hundreds—even thousands—of dollars in a matter of hours in drug-related activities.
Furthermore, on the streets, something as simple as a misdirected look or even a turn onto a wrong street can result in murder. A police officer on every corner and federal funding will not solve a problem that has become ingrained in the community.
Further contributing to the rise in murder rates is the confusion left in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. During the storm, the police crime lab was completely destroyed and evidence in hundreds of criminal cases was lost. Since then, $5 million in federal funds was used to rebuild the lab.
But tragically, the system has been so overwhelmed and unable to properly investigate murders that only 12% of those arrested for murder are convicted and sentenced to prison. This alarming trend of failed prosecution and lack of consequences for homicide has spawned the terms “misdemeanor murder” or “60-day murders” among locals. The term reflects the amount of time that suspects can be held on murder charges before mandatory release due to lack of evidence or additional charges.
From January 1 to February 4, there had already been an additional 18 murders in New Orleans, or one every two days.
City hall is at a loss and violence is on the rise. Is there an end in sight?
Which of the proposed reforms can change—or even curb—human nature? You may wish to read our article “Human Nature – Exposed!” to learn of the cause of such violence.