In the city of New Orleans, conflicts among small groups, distrust of police and widespread corruption among law enforcement have created the perfect conditions for a homicide epidemic, reports the New York Times.
With murder rates 10 times the national average, New Orleans is scrambling for solutions to its violence problems. According to the Times, in 2010 there were 51 homicides per 100,000 residents, compared with less than 7 per 100,000 in New York or 23 in the similar-sized city of Oakland, Calif. Both the killers and victims are overwhelmingly composed of Black males.
“From September of last year to February of this year,” the Times quoted Mayor Mitch Landrieu, saying in a recent speech after reciting a litany of killings from one city high school, “a student attending John McDonogh was more likely to be killed than a soldier in Afghanistan.”
However grim the outlook, the city is working to find solutions that will stop the violence and find out where exactly it is coming from. Last month, Mayor Landrieu announced the adoption of a murder reduction initiative tasked with tacking violence with comprehensive community programming and infrastructure.
“We are laser-focused on reducing murder in New Orleans. This city-wide effort will marshal resources to target areas that need it the most and where we have the most murders occurring,” Landrieu said in a statement. “The Strategic Command to Reduce Murders will provide a data-driven, multi-disciplinary, public health-informed approach to murder reduction that prevents and reduces crime in our city.”
Unlike other cities with high homicide rates, New Orleans does not have large issues with gangs or drug syndicates that carry along the characteristic baggage of infectious crime. Rather, the city faces a much tougher contingent: small groups that are harder and less predictable to track. The question of where the violence starts becomes even more difficult to solve when one factors in the severe distrust of police that exists in Black neighborhoods.
“They do not trust the police,” Ameer Baraka, community activist told the Times. “When these people are looking for help, they’re looking for inside help.”
The police themselves are not beyond reproach. The department is still shuffling to clean up its image after several officers were involved in high-profile scandals following Hurricane Katrina and other incidents that have led to the conviction and termination of officers. City officials have been in talks with the Department of Justice for nearly a year to discuss legally binding reforms that both parties hope will whip the force into shape.
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