By Allen Johnson Jr.
When will the city and NOPD come up with a strategy to keep residents as safe as visitors? The question arose anew last week as alarming crime statistics burst into public view just as once-skeptical NBA officials were praising Mayor Ray Nagin, Police Chief Warren Riley and exhausted cops for a peaceful NBA All-Star weekend. Except for an unrelated, nonfatal shooting in the French Quarter after the All-Star game, there were no major incidents a welcome contrast to the violence that marred the event last year in Las Vegas. Rafael Goyeneche, president of the private Metropolitan Crime Commission, echoed earlier remarks by City Council President Arnie Fielkow and said new figures show that NOPDs citywide crime-fighting strategies are clearly not working. In 2007, incidents of violent crime (including murders, rapes, robberies and shootings) soared by 53 percent from the previous year or by 22 percent per capita, using the departments liberal population estimate of 312,000 people. Keep in mind, the City Council gave the NOPD an extra $5 million during the last quarter for overtime pay, said Goyeneche. Even then, the department just held the line. Goyeneche is urging NOPD to issue summons for misdemeanor offenses and focus on violent offenders. We need to do some things differently, he said. NOPD did not respond to a request for comment.