By John Simerman | NOLA.com | June 16, 2022
Public confidence in the New Orleans Police Department has nosedived, while a dwindling minority of residents feels the city is safe, according to a newly released survey from the New Orleans Crime Coalition.
The rising sense of peril and frustration with police crossed neighborhoods, races and age groups, according to the survey of 800 residents.
The survey, an annual temperature check on public sentiment around crime and police, found a populace reeling from a two-year onslaught of deadly violence while the NOPD rapidly bleeds officers, reaching its lowest staffing levels in several decades.
The results are likely to add fuel to roiling debates and political finger-pointing over the response to raging crime in a city that three-quarters of residents now view as unsafe, up from two-thirds last year.
“Satisfaction” with NOPD plummeted from 52% to 33%, the lowest mark recorded since the first coalition survey in 2009.
It’s a long way from the high-water mark for public confidence in NOPD, in 2016, when nearly two-thirds of residents counted themselves satisfied with the department.
That also was the most successful year for the NOPD over the past decade in recruiting new officers. Hiring has slid since, while a slew of cops has walked out the door.
The latest count puts the department at around 1,000 commissioned officers, while the pipeline of new applicants has slowed to a trickle.
The NOPD lost so many officers last year that the state police retirement system considers it “partially dissolved.” The city will be billed $9 million over 15 years to cover a hit to the system, records show.
Crime has surged in the meantime. The survey’s results largely track the headlines — a steady onslaught of fatal violence and carjackings that has endured since 2020.
On Wednesday, NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson presented statistics before the City Council showing a recent drop in major violent crimes, though one prominent category — homicides — remains high.
Homicides in New Orleans have risen by more than half from last year at this time and are up 150% over three years, according to figures from the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
Shootings are down 5% this year but up 92% from 2019. Carjackings are up 182% over three years.
The coalition survey found residents attuned to those grim statistics: 84% of them said crime has gotten worse, up 10 percentage points from last year; just 1% said it was better.
Most residents considered their own neighborhoods safer than the city as a whole, the survey found. Regardless, satisfaction with NOPD in their own neighborhoods also fell steeply.
The results also pointed to a broader shift in attitudes toward police. Positive ratings for the NOPD on “appropriate force,” honesty and professionalism all took severe hits in this year’s survey, though it’s unclear what local incidents might have spurred the declines. Police nationally have fallen under intense scrutiny over excessive force and racial bias in the two years since George Floyd’s death under an officer’s knee in Minnesota. The survey showed satisfaction with NOPD was higher among those 45 years and older.
Michael Cowan, a Loyola University professor who chairs the commission, pointed to broad support in the survey, across racial lines, for beefing up the NOPD, including about 70% who backed more use of cameras and computer analytics to solve crime. Nearly half of residents “strongly support” the NOPD using facial recognition technology, it found.
“While residents are deeply troubled by the level in crime in the city and are less satisfied with the NOPD than they have been in years, they are not anti-police,” Cowan said in a statement.
The survey was conducted by Faucheux Strategies over six days at the start of the month, a stretch that included a series of street stunt shows on June 5 that went viral on social media the next day, enraging some residents and elected officials.