By Ramon Antonio Vargas | NOLA.com | January 22, 2021
New Orleans East and an area including the 9th Ward have borne the brunt of the gun violence that perennially plagues the city’s streets over the last five years, according to a recent analysis from the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
About half of all homicides and non-fatal shootings reported in the city between 2016 and 2020 occurred in two police districts: the 7th District, which patrols New Orleans East, and the 5th District, which encompasses areas such as the 9th Ward, Bywater and Marigny.
About 25% of New Orleans’ 753 slayings and 27% of its 408 non-fatal shootings during that five-year period happened in the 7th District. It is by far the largest area patrolled by police, with 133 square miles and 80,000 residents. The 5th District’s jurisdiction accounted for 23% of killings and 24% of non-fatal shootings.
The rest were spread out among the NOPD’s remaining six districts across the city, according to the commission’s analysis of calls for service received by police.
The commission, which serves as an independent watchdog group over the city’s policing efforts, issued a statement saying it hopes “sharing this information with residents and neighborhood associations will facilitate a higher level of citizen awareness, engagement, and support of law enforcement efforts to mitigate crime.”
The commission also urged the city to restore overtime pay for NOPD officers, particularly in crime-plagued districts, after the force’s budget for this year was slashed by $16 million — or 8% — from what it was in 2020.
Another area standing out in the analysis for the wrong reasons was the 3rd District, which includes Lakeview and Gentilly. That district had the highest share of vehicle burglaries in the city, at 20%, and the second-highest share of carjackings, at 17%, making it a preferred spot for criminals targeting vehicles.
Meanwhile, the commission’s analysis contextualized a spike in several key violent-crime categories that New Orleans experienced last year after the coronavirus pandemic began to unravel many aspects of life in the city. The 232 carjackings reported in 2020 were an astonishing 90% higher than the average of 122 carjackings seen annually during the four prior years.
Likewise, homicides and non-deadly shootings were much higher than they had typically been citywide. The 202 homicides in New Orleans last year were 36% higher than the 150 homicides averaged each year from 2016 to 2019, and the 425 non-fatal shootings were 56% higher than the annual average of 273 during the same period.
An NOPD spokesperson on Friday issued a statement saying the higher crime rates last year were in line with nationwide trends and were fueled by a host of factors, including neighborhood and domestic disputes and the challenges of life during the pandemic.
“The NOPD’s resolve remains the same,” the statement added. “We continue to be vigilant, committed and engaged in our determination and efforts to keep visitors and residents in our community safe.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the NOPD’s 8th District — in charge of protecting the French Quarter and Central Business District — consistently had the lowest rates for most major crimes. At just 7.5 square miles, the district is one of the agency’s smallest, and officers there have received help on patrols from state troopers, which likely helps keep crime there relatively low.
Internet users can download the complete analysis at the MCC’s website, metrocrime.org.