New Orleans officials touted a "40-year low" in the city's murder rate at a Dec. 17 news conference. The city reported 154 murders at press time, compared to 2012's 181, two years into NOLA for Life, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's five-tiered murder reduction strategy.
Landrieu and dozens of law enforcement officials — including New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Superintendent Ronal Serpas, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite and Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman — attributed the drop in murders to the city's focus on violent crime through its Group Violence Reduction Strategy and Multi-Agency Gang (MAG) Unit, as well as its series of "call-ins" for people involved in gang violence.
Their math technically was correct, but the "40-year low" claim did not reflect per capita murder statistics over the past four decades. While total murders are down, the murder rate climbed until 2011. FBI crime statistics for New Orleans go back to 1985 (that year saw a rate of 27 murders per 100,000 residents). But the murder rate over the last two years has dropped — from 57 per 100,000 residents in 2011 to 53 in 2012.
With the citywide elections less than two months away and Landrieu challenger Michael Bagneris already taking swipes at NOLA For Life, residents are likely to hear a lot about the "40-year low" claim between now and Election Day.
Landrieu said 20 percent of the 150 people who attended the call-ins (the city held its fifth on Dec. 17) accepted help and resources, including jobs, through NOLA for Life. Cannizzaro and the MAG unit have made more than 70 convictions in a wide range of indictments, busting seven street gangs.