Wave Of Violent Crime Intensifies In N.O.

Cain Burdeau, AP, August 16, 2007

Despite an infusion of money and manpower into the justice system, the murder rate is growing and armed robbers are preying on Hispanic day laborers flush with cash from rebuilding jobs, the Police Department says.

The city, which led the nation in murders per capita in 2006, is on track to retain its title, according to data presented Thursday for April through June.

The report shows a 14 percent increase in murders and 44 percent leap in armed robberies for the first half of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006.

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[Police Superintendent Warren] Riley said the increase of armed robberies correlates to a spate of muggings of Hispanic workers, many of them undocumented, in the city’s devastated eastern section. Much of the area, flooded by Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005, remains a wasteland and is difficult to patrol. Riley said the workers are easy prey because they often don’t have bank accounts and carry large amounts of cash. A team of officers has been working on catching the robbers, Riley said.

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But Peter Scharf, a criminologist with the University of New Orleans, said Katrina-based arguments are harder to make now that the city has had so much time to repair damage and received so much support.

“The hurricane theories, morphing of drug groups, or that the NOPD is in a trailer, really don’t make sense,” Scharf said. “You look at the leadership in this city to the leadership in cities that have been reasonably successful, and it’s night and day.”

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