Behind the numbers: violent crime in New Orleans

July 2016 was one of the most violent months in New Orleans — but crime analyst Jeff Asher says there’s room for optimism in the city’s war on crime.

July was a terrible month for violent crime in New Orleans, crime analyst Jeff Asher reports in this week’s Gambit.

With nearly 50 shooting incidents and more than 25 murders, it was one of the worst months for gun violence since Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods. August hasn’t started much better, with 13 shootings and four murders in the month’s first week.

Nevertheless, there are definite signs of improvement.

As of mid-July, New Orleans was on pace for about 140 murders in 2016, which would be the fewest in a single year since 1970, though by month’s end the outlook for the year was up to 157 murders. New Orleans averaged 188 murders a year from 2007 to 2012, when NOLA for Life, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s multifaceted murder reduction program, was implemented. There has been an average of 157 murders a year for the last three years.

At the same time, overall crime has skyrocketed since 2010, as the New Orleans Police Department’s manpower plummeted. Uniform Crime Report Part I (the country’s official crime measure) showed crime in New Orleans jumped 32 percent between 2010 and 2014. Response times improved nearly 300 percent last year compared to 2010, but they’re still pretty bad. The longer response times also led to underreporting as victims and witnesses gave up on police and left crime scenes.

Yet I feel optimistic about where we’re going in terms of crime reduction. It may take several years to reach fruition, but a foundation has been laid for significantly lower levels of crimes being fought by a police department that consistently respects constitutional rights and has strong organizational oversight.

Read Asher's analysis here.