By William Patrick | The Center Square Louisiana | October 15, 2021

(The Center Square) – New Orleans has one of the highest homicide rate increases of any major city in the country since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to a recent crime analysis.

Researchers for the personal finance website WalletHub compared homicide rates of the 50 most-populous urban areas over the past two years and ranked New Orleans fourth-highest overall, behind Atlanta, Memphis and Chicago.

Using U.S. Census Bureau data and local crime statistics, researchers also determined New Orleans’ homicide rate had spiked to 12 homicides per 100,000 residents by the end of September, indicating the problem is getting worse.

The upward trend is not unique to New Orleans, however.

“Homicide rates have increased 34% in the 50 most populated cities in the United States since fall 2019, and they are still rising,” analysts said.

The reasons offered for the nationwide surge varied from COVID-19-related social instabilities to policing strategies to financial stress.

“The last year has been a period of instability and challenge with COVID, social unrest and political change,” said Christopher Salvatore, associate professor at Montclair State University. “During these periods, faith in social institutions waivers – like the criminal justice system – and overall social control may weaken.”

“Poverty-stricken areas have been particularly hard hit economically by the pandemic and this is where the increase in violent crimes has been concentrated,” former federal prosecutor Diane Birnholz said.

The Metropolitan Crime Commission (MCC), a New Orleans-based nonprofit, asserted the city’s violent crime problem is worse than the homicide rate suggests.

Not only have nonfatal crimes similarly increased during the period, but New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams has declined to pursue many alleged crimes, the group said.

“There have been fewer violent felony arrests since he took office,” MCC President Raphael Goyeneche said in a statement. “The MCC examined more than 19,000 screening decisions and case depositions. Almost half (46%) of violent felonies screened for prosecution were refused.”

According to the New Orleans City Council Crime Dashboard, aggravated assaults, rapes and robberies have increased since last year. Nonfatal shootings also increased 37% and carjackings rose 52%, the dashboard showed.

The city also has incurred 156 murders in 2021, six more than all of 2020.

The WalletHub analysis is consistent with recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, which showed a 30% homicide rate increase nationwide between 2019 and 2020 – the most in modern history.

“It is the largest increase in 100 years,” Robert Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at NCHS, said in a CNN interview.