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New Orleans, With Nation's #1 Murder Rate, Faces Crime Struggle

Violent crime has surged across the U.S. since the start of the pandemic. While it has flattened in much of the country this year, the numbers have continued to rise in several cities, including Dallas, Phoenix and New Orleans, according to data compiled for the first half of this year by the Major Cities Chiefs Association, reports the Wall Street Journal. New Orleans had the highest homicide rate of any major city so far this year, with their total increasing 141 percent compared with the same period in 2019, according to the Metropolitan Crime Commission Inc., a nonprofit that works to reduce crime in the city. Shootings are up 100 percent, carjackings 210 percent and armed robberies up 25 percent. Homicides are on pace to surpass last year’s total, which was the worst since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Several potential factors in the rise in violent crime across the U.S., include stress from the pandemic, police pullbacks after racial-justice protests and a proliferation of guns. In New Orleans, officials and residents point to an overwhelmed police department as a major factor. The city has about 50 to 60 oercent of the officers it needs to offer adequate protection for residents, estimated Ronal Serpas, who was the city’s police superintendent from 2010 to 2014 and is now a criminal justice professor at Loyola University New Orleans. Police officers and political leaders, including Mayor LaToya Cantrell, say the department has been hobbled in part by fallout from a decade-old agreement between the federal government and the city to address corruption and other issues, which they say has resulted in crackdowns on officers for minor infractions. Police officers are leaving the force more quickly than the city can replace them, making it easier for criminals in the city. “The criminals are more bolder and more brazen,” said New Orleans Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson. “They do not believe they will face any consequences for their actions.” The police department is stretched so thin that the average 911 response time is 2½ hours, according to a recent report. Te department says the time is much shorter for very serious emergency calls. The city’s inability to address the crime wave is sowing divisions among civic, business and community leaders and motivating some business owners and residents to leave—a spiral that worsens the problem..

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