Hours after the Jan. 25 killing of Harry "Mike" Ainsworth, who was shot to death in front of his two sons in Algiers while trying to stop a carjacking, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu called on local judges to adopt large minimum bond amounts for defendants accused of gun crimes.
The judges at Criminal District Court and Municipal Court are being asked to require a minimum bond of $30,000 for any defendant "facing charges of illegal concealment of a weapon or other weapons charges," Landrieu wrote in a letter to Criminal Court Chief Judge Camille Buras and Municipal Court Chief Judge Paul Sens.
Landrieu says 40 percent of the city s 2011 homicide suspects and 30 percent of victims previously had faced illegal weapons charges. New Orleans Police Chief Ronal Serpas said those numbers are approaching 50 percent of suspects and 50 percent of victims in 2012. Higher bonds will, in theory, mean that fewer people will be able to afford the bail amounts to get out of jail and will therefore be less likely to commit violent crimes on the street.
Landrieu's proposal is based on a concept first implemented in St. Louis, he said, adding, "They believed this helped bring down their murder rate."
Some credit the program for St. Louis' 20 percent drop in murders in 2011 — down to 114 killings compared to 144 in 2010. It should be noted that the new bond minimums were adopted less than nine months ago. St. Louis' annual murder tallies have varied wildly in the past decade, with as few as 74 in 2003 to as many as 168 in 2008, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Landrieu has added another element to the St. Louis plan. He's asking that people charged with gun crimes be required to wear an electronic monitor and pay for the program themselves, if they're able, as a condition of being released on bond.
The city currently pays Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, whose department runs the program, $13.25 per day per adult and $14.75 a day per juvenile participant in the electronic monitoring program. Landrieu awarded the sheriff's office the contract in late 2010. There are now 120 participants in the program, Gusman said. — Charles Maldonado