Crime Soaring in New Orleans


Nine murders in the first eight days of 2007—it’s the Wild Wild West riverboat days in New Orleans all over again.

For a city of 230,000 people, so many murders over such a short time is shocking—even for longtime residents already desensitized by high per capita pre-Hurricane Katrina crime rates.

The first week’s seven slayings, and one suspicious death, are known not to be linked, said New Orleans Police Department spokesman Sergeant Jeffrey Johnson.

“Bloody ’07 we’re calling it,” said Tulane University history professor Douglas Brinkley. “We’re starting the new year off with a melee of gunfire and it doesn’t bode well for the year” (Globe and Mail, January 6).

Even discounting January’s murder spree, New Orleans’s homicide rate on a per capita basis during all of 2006 exceeded crime-ridden Detroit’s (Stratfor, January 15).

Currently, more killings are occurring on the streets of New Orleans than before Katrina, even though the city has only half the pre-flood population.

According to the Globe and Mail, the rule of law is failing and lawbreakers and gangs “see opportunities in the city’s overtaxed police force, dysfunctional justice system and Wild West mentality.”

Another factor behind the violence is the organized crime and gangs that have moved into New Orleans to exploit post-flood disorganization. According to think tank Stratfor, new gangs are competing for turf against each other and remnants of disrupted local gangs. The problem of fighting these new crime syndicates is that they often merge with the large number of Latin American migrant workers who have come to the city seeking jobs.

The situation is so bad that Professor Brinkley says professionals with families who returned to rebuild their lives are fleeing the city. “If you have options, you’re leaving,” he said. “It’s like living in a war zone. You feel fairly safe in the daytime, but you never know what’s going to happen at night. … Katrina loosed an anarchy on the city and we’re not doing very well here” (Globe and Mail, op. cit.).

In actuality, the lingering aftermaths of Hurricane Katrina are just the leading edge of many more storms about to break upon America. For more information, please see our November 2005 issue.