By Danae Columbus | Uptown Messenger | August 20, 2020
The Metropolitan Crime Commission (MCC), New Orleans’ premier criminal justice watchdog agency, is urging the New Orleans Police Department to refocus on violent offenders during a time when shootings and murders are surging and fewer arrests are being made for violent and weapons felony offenses.
A new MCC analysis shows that there is currently a high community demand for police services. They recommend that the NOPD reinstitute a centralized task force model that allows police to strategically identify and target violent felons who continue to pose a threat to community safety.
“Every violent crime that goes unresolved by arrest fuels the vigilante cycle of retaliatory justice, thereby diminishing public confidence in law enforcement,” said Rafael Goyeneche, MCC president. “The foundation for prosperity is built upon public safety. Our statistics demonstrate the public’s reliance on police and the need to resume proactive policing.”
Since Jan. 1, the NOPD has received an average of over 30,000 calls for service each month. “The large number of calls received in 2020 indicates that citizen demand for police services has remained high despite the COVID-19 pandemic and recent police protests,” he said.
Homicides and non-fatal shootings are surging compared with the same time period in 2019. There have also been significant reductions in felony arrests in 2020. “Declining arrest rates despite the spike in homicides and shootings suggest a need for the NOPD to strategically target violent gangs,” Goyeneche said. “Every violent gang-related shooting or homicide that does not result in arrest increases the likelihood of retaliatory street violence, which fuels higher crime rates.”
A snapshot of the Orleans Parish jail population confirms that a large majority of inmates are held in custody for felony pretrial offenses, primarily violent or weapons-related charges. Nearly all inmates held on misdemeanors are being held for violent offenses, primarily domestic violence charges.
“When police do make an arrest for a crime of violence, those offenders often remain in custody pending trial,” he concluded. Overall, arrests are down 49% and felony arrest dropped 37% over the past year.