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NOPD's New Math
New Orleans Police reported 55 murders during the third quarter of this year, but you could not tell by looking at the 'crime stats" on NOPD's Web site last week (http://secure.cityofno.com/portal.aspx?portal=50&tabid=88). In a departure from standard practice, the force omitted the total number of murders (and seven other major felonies) from its report to the public. Instead, NOPD published only the per capita crime rates (per 100,000 residents) for the third quarter, using a rosy population estimate of 311,696. For example, instead of just reporting the 55 killings, the department reported there were 17.6 murders per 100,000 residents for the three-month period ending Sept. 30. Compared to the same period last year, when the storm-battered city had an estimated 226,844 people, NOPD calculates that murders are now down by more than 24 percent. Numerically, however, there were 53 murders in the city during the third quarter last year. In other words, there were two more murders this year than during the same quarter last year. There was no word from NOPD at press time as to why the 'Q3" crime reports were presented differently than previous quarters. Omitting raw crime data may deprive departmental critics of 'ammunition," particularly those who use more conservative population estimates to calculate the all-important murder rate. " Johnson

 

Crime Stats: Go Figure
Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, dissected the NOPD's third quarter crime stats last week. 'The first three quarters shows an escalating trend of violent crime," he said. Referring to the City Council's grant of $5 million in police overtime pay for the remainder of 2007, Goyeneche added, 'What we should see in the fourth quarter (crime statistics) is the payoff for that investment." Meanwhile, citizens can determine the raw crime stats for the third quarter by using the published per capita crime rate and the 311,696 population estimate. For example, NOPD reported 10.9 rapes (not including male rapes and oral sexual battery) per capita for the third quarter " instead of 34 rapes. The department also reported 89.2 armed robberies per capita " instead of 278 holdups; 13.8 simple robberies per capita (such as purse snatchings) instead of 43 such robberies; and 185.8 assaults per capita " instead of 579 incidents. Overall, there were 317.3 violent crimes per capita " or 989 incidents. " Johnson

 

Programmatic Choice
Few others in the throes of state government fit into Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal's reform program like new Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis. Although just 39 years old, David has proven her mettle by holding the number-two spot in the Division of Administration under former Gov. Mike Foster and, most recently, as Culture, Recreation and Tourism (CRT) secretary under Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu. During that time, Davis showed that she could be aggressive and innovative without offending people. There are high hopes for what she can do with the state's booming $29 billion budget. If her previous administrative style is any indicator, expect big changes. Davis has been at the helm of a major reform movement that seeped into practically every corner of state government. At CRT, she oversaw a reform dubbed 'budgeting for outcomes." It's a back-and-forth bartering process that the private sector has used for decades. Division heads had to make 'offers" and respond to 'counter-offers" for their budgets and programs, competing against other division heads for funding. In short, she halted the practice of balancing its budget by across-the-board cuts. But the operational overhaul involved much more than budgeting. A new management plan was put into place with the goal of boosting accountability, establishing result-oriented performance and changing the overall culture of the department. At one point last year, there was talk of implementing the system in other state departments, but we all know how much bureaucracy loves change and progress. Now that Davis will be in charge of the state budget, there are high hopes for her innovative system. " Alford

 

Adiós, Bandidos
The successful prosecution of two armed robbers last week who admitted robbing four immigrant workers from Honduras offers authorities a fresh opportunity for community outreach " and to brush up on their Spanish. New Orleans Criminal District Court Judge Raymond Bigelow last week sentenced two men to prison stretches of 15 and 5 years, respectively. They pleaded guilty to the Aug. 3 armed robberies of the four immigrant victims, who worked inside an unoccupied Mid-City residence. Authorities have struggled to stop job-site robberies of an estimated 60,000 immigrant workers who have flooded the area since Katrina. Cops and prosecutors also have to overcome language barriers and the distrust of immigrants, many of whom are undocumented. We asked spokespersons for Police Chief Warren Riley, DA Keva Landrum-Johnson and Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman to comment on the successful prosecution of the robbery case " in Spanish. Only Gusman responded by press time. And he made a pitch for a state victims' assistance program. 'La gente que atacó a estos empleados estan en la carcel," Gusman said through a spokesperson. 'Si usted es la victima de un crimen violento notifice a la oficina del Sheriff." Translation: 'The people who attacked these workers are in jail. If you are a victim of a violent crime, contact the sheriff's office for help." The sheriff's office number is (504) 827-6754. " Johnson

 

Who Let the Dogs Out?
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison last week on dogfighting charges, isn't the only one in trouble for the outlawed sport. Orleans Parish DA Keva Landrum-Johnson's office is preparing to try at least four defendants on felony dogfighting charges. Trial dates were not available at press time. Two of the cases will be tried before Criminal Court Judge Frank Marullo. The remaining case will be tried before Judge Julian Parker. If convicted of Louisiana's most severe criminal statute against dog fighting, the defendants could face anywhere from one to 10 years in jail and/or $1,000 to $250,000 in fines. " Johnson

 

Film Biz Rebounds (Again)
There's no business in Louisiana right now like show business. In West Baton Rouge Parish, River Studios and FilmPort, a 925,000-square-foot complex for TV, film and digital media, is getting ready to open. The estimated cost for the 150-acre complex is more than $500 million, making it by far the largest studio project in Louisiana. Meanwhile, in Jefferson Parish, a South Korean company received approval recently to build a new sound-stage facility. In addition to these two ventures, Louisiana's film and entertainment industry is expected to surpass $500 million in economic impact for the first time this year. That's based on 41 completed projects, from TV to major films. The impact last year was $341 million, and four years ago it was $80 million. As for blockbusters heading to a theater near you, Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac will soon be shooting Soul Men in Shreveport, alongside Jack Black and his feature, The Year One. In Baton Rouge, Cuba Gooding Jr. has committed to a movie called The Way of War. " Alford

 

Inspector General Triche?
After serving as a vocal fiscal overseer of sorts in the state Legislature for more than two decades, Rep. Warren Triche is hoping that Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal will appoint him to the position of inspector general. Triche, a Raceland Democrat forced out of office by term limits, earned a reputation during his legislative career as a gruff critic of administrative spending priorities and a champion of often-overlooked issues, ranging from child-support collections to overhauling boards and commissions. From comparing former Gov. Mike Foster's budget agenda to the 'Wizard of Oz" to likening New Orleans' crime problem to the Wild West, Triche was a reliable sound bite for Capitol reporters and a brazen opponent few officials wanted to face down. Now he's hoping his bravado will be enough to propel him to the appointed position of inspector general, the state's official watchdog. The office is an investigative agency that answers only to the governor and, in theory, exists to weed out corruption, expose fraud and keep state government in line through investigations and published reports. Triche says he has submitted his resume to Jindal's transition team and started the application process. Jindal, a Republican, officially takes office Jan. 14, but has already begun filling key positions in his cabinet. 'If the governor-elect is serious about what he campaigned on in recent months, meaning curbing wasteful spending and ridding ourselves of corruption, then I should be one of his first choices for inspector general," Triche says. 'I'm not afraid of anybody. Some people might say I'm too aggressive or outspoken, but that's a compliment for a position like this." By most accounts, the inspector general has become a mere shadow of its former watchdog self. " Alford

 

U.S. Still Overfishing
A national fisheries group known for its environmental activism has released a new report that documents 'chronic overfishing" off all U.S. coasts. According to the Marine Fish Conservation Network, one of the nation's only trade groups dedicated solely to sustainable management, roughly 10 percent of America's oceanic stocks are subject to overfishing. That figure has remained relatively constant since 1999, which is how far back the study reached for what was described as 'available" and 'comparable" data. The report, 'Taking Stock: The Chronic Overfishing of America's Oceans," defines chronic overfishing as an activity that has been occurring for more than six years. It identifies four overfished species overseen by the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council, the region's regulatory agency: Vermilion snapper; overfished for six years; red drum, also known as redfish, six years; red grouper, seven years; and red snapper, nine years. The new report blames the nation's regional fishery management councils for the trend, citing the group's failures to set and enforce science-based annual catch limits. 'Not only does chronic overfishing harm fish populations and reduce commercial and recreational fishing opportunities," says Gerry Leape, president of the Marine Fish Conservation Network, 'but by one estimate, Americans have lost $3 billion dollars annually in exports, jobs, recreation and other economic activity." The report claims that the local regulatory council has failed to prevent continued overfishing in the Gulf because catch limits have traditionally been set too high. Marine Fish Conservation Network is made up of almost 200 environmental groups, commercial and recreational fishing associations, aquariums and marine science organizations. For a copy of its new report, go to http://conservefish.org/site/pdf/2007OverfishingReport_TakingStock.pdf. " Alford'

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