The Big Easy overtook St. Louis for the grim distinction of U.S. murder capital in the first half of 2022.
New Orleans, plagued by low police staffing levels and morale, saw 41 murders per 100,000 people in the first six months of the year, a 141% increase over 2019, according to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal. The murder rate is nearly four times that of Chicago and nearly 20 times the rate in New York City.
“The criminals are more bolder and more brazen,” New Orleans Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson told the newspaper. “They do not believe they will face any consequences for their actions.”
The Journal broke down numbers provided by the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the city’s own Metropolitan Crime Commission. In addition to homicides, shootings are up 100% over 2019 numbers; carjackings have spiked 210% and armed robberies have risen 25%, data shows. The 2019 numbers are from the FBI’s most recent Uniform Crime Report.
I lived in NOLA for 3+ years in late 2010s through first six months of pandemic and never felt unsafe (uptown, garden district, central business district, French quarter, Marigny) at any time of day. Great city, nice people. Sad to read about this decline. https://t.co/8GVCUbzkWC
— The Rational Walk (@rationalwalk) September 17, 2022
Last year, St. Louis was the nation’s murder capital, with 61 murders per 100,000 for the full year, according to a study by the Rochester Insitute of Technology. With New Orleans on pace for 82 murders per 100,000, the Louisiana city will easily eclipse St. Louis this year. In 2021, New Orleans trailed only St. Louis, with a full-year rate of second-place rate of 56 murders per 100,000.
Although New Orleans spends $570 per resident on its police budget, second only to New York City, it is nonetheless plagued by staffing problems, according to the Journal. The force is now under 1,000 officers for the first time in decades, and down by a third from just a few years ago.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell blames a consent decree put in place in 2013 following several racially charged police incidents that allows the Justice Department to watch over the department. She said it makes it hard for cops to do their job and difficult for the department to recruit new officers.
Approximately 100 officers are retiring or resigning each year, City Council President Helena Moreno said in July.
“You cannot operate a department that’s made for roughly 1,400 officers when it has less than a thousand,” Moreno said at a city council meeting, according to WWL-TV.
Capt. Michael Glasser, who heads the Police Association of New Orleans, told the Daily Mail the department’s aggressive internal affairs bureau has falsely accused cops of wrongdoing, and thus discouraged police from doing their jobs aggressively.