Give us a plan this week addressing what you’re going to do about the increasing crime problem in New Orleans. We need a prime-time press conference, with a Q&A to follow. We need you to stay on script, and we need you to leave the Mr. Cool clown routine in the closet.
It struck me as self-aggrandizing to compare New Orleans with Iraq. But I would hear the analogy again and again as I talked with people who had spent years fighting and losing the battle against violent crime in New Orleans. The U.S. Attorney talked about the need to win citizens’ hearts and minds. An FBI agent compared the city’s gangs to a jihadist movement: small, loosely organized and hard to track.
Most people who study crime in New Orleans see it in the context of a panorama of failures: the broken school system, an economy that hasn’t adapted to modernity and shamefully easy access to guns. But the factor that may be unique to New Orleans is a justice system that has lost all credibility.
Even one murder should be vilified, but the per capita stats don’t look good either:
So far, 33 people have been murdered this year–almost half of them in the month of April alone. A man assaulted two women in a bar in the French Quarter last week, and then shot and killed a man who came to their aid, police say. Today there are far fewer people in New Orleans and thus fewer dead bodies. But the number that matters most is the per capita figure. If this rate of killing continues, New Orleans will have an annual crime rate of roughly 45 murders per 100,000 people. (By comparison, New York City’s murder rate last year was 7.)
One significant weak link in the system:
From 2003 to 2004, Elloie, one of 12 judges, was responsible for 83% of cases in which a suspect was released after a bail reduction, according to a Metropolitan Crime Commission study. Since Katrina, Elloie has issued either no bail or low bail in at least four cases involving assault rifles, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.