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Murder by the Numbers

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  On Aug. 27, New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley dismissed as "ridiculous" a wire service story listing New Orleans' per capita homicide rate as the third-highest in the world. "That report is absolutely incorrect," said Riley, referring to a report by Agence-France Presse (AFP) and based on findings from a nongovernmental watchdog group in Mexico. It listed the drug war-torn border city of Ciudad Juarez as the world's deadliest city with 130 murders per 100,000 residents in 2008. Caracas, Venezuela was second (96 per 100,000) and New Orleans, third, (95 per 100,000). Riley argues the city's 179 murders for 2008 was no higher than 57.5 per 100,000 people, based on a conservative post-Katrina population estimate of 311,000 published by a local nonprofit data center.

  Assuming Riley is correct, New Orleans would still have the highest murder rate in the U.S. Baltimore was second with 45 murders per 100,000; Baghad was 10th on the AFP list with 40 murders per 100,000. Using Mayor Ray Nagin's estimate of 367,000 residents in 2009, Riley says the 132 murders as of Aug. 27 puts the murder rate so far this year at 35.9 per 100,000. "(Locals) say we beat ourselves up too much with bad news, but this (report) is an international story and New Orleans is a world tourist destination," said Rafael Goyeneche, president of the private Metropolitan Crime Commission. Both Goyeneche and Riley expressed guarded optimism that a state jury's conviction last week of Michael Anderson for the 2006 murders of five other teenagers could signal increased public confidence in the beleaguered criminal justice system. — Allen Johnson Jr.

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