As New Orleans averages nearly two murders a day (as of last week), the city's police — as well as federal and state agencies — are stepping up personnel to help prevent, rather than respond to, violent crime.
On July 21, New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Superintendent Michael Harrison announced the department's "renewed" commitments with Louisiana State Police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the U.S. Marshals Service. (Almost immediately following the press conference, a 17-year-old youth was killed in a drive-by shooting in New Orleans East, and a 4-year-old child was injured.)
Despite the rise in shooting deaths, Harrison said nonfatal shootings are down 20 percent and crime overall is down 8 percent compared to last year. NOPD also recently graduated 27 new recruits. Its gang unit, however, is static at seven detectives and two supervisors, but the unit is "going to double its work," Harrison said. Harrison said he's also approving overtime for officers.
"If violence is the life you choose, then prison is the price you pay," the chief said. When asked whether NOPD is capable of stopping crime before it happens, Harrison said, "We're gonna stop them." State police, ATF and DEA agents also pleaded with New Orleanians to contact them with crime tips.
As deaths rise, the coroner's office stays busy. On July 22, Orleans Parish Coroner Jeffrey Rouse, beginning his second year in office, presented his midyear budget to the New Orleans City Council. (On July 2, following a deadly day in the city, an exasperated Rouse tweeted, "4 homicides in 6 hours this afternoon. Four, for Christ's sake.")
Though his office is working within its $2.17 million budget, Rouse said it still is underfunded compared to neighboring parishes. Jefferson Parish, he said, receives a $5.4 million budget yet handles only 575 autopsies on average. "We're the busiest coroner's office in the state," Rouse said. Rouse said his office needs a day shift death investigator, two more administrative staffers, more funding for mental health services, a 24/7 front desk service and an in-house toxicology lab.
The office also has created a Victim Allies Project with SilenceIsViolence to support victims' families. "[We] stay outside the tape, so to speak, and interact directly with family so the family can understand what is happening in my office and hold that family's hand through that process," Rouse said.